Saturday, 31 January 2015

It's a New Year!

January 30th came around faster than I anticipated.  I've commited to a number of projects this next year and I've decided that this blog would be a good place to record my experiences, my progress and my stumbling blocks along the way.  I only have six blogs to write here on the Worldwide Genealogy Project and lots of plans and goals for the year so hopefully, writing every two months will be enough to track my progress on this journey through 2015.

I've been working to complete my families genealogy since around 2005.  Initially, I had the tremendous good fortune to make contact with two cousins through the message boards at  My fathers father was one of three brothers who immigrated to the United States from Germany in the early 1900's.  Each married and had children although their relationships with one another were not close.  Between myself and the two women I connected with, we were able to connect back to each one of these three men.  Learning about their grandfathers and putting that knowledge together with what I knew about my grandfather started my genealogical pursuit.  At this point, I am deep into my mothers heritage.  I've learned that the more children in a family, the easier it is to trace.  My mother and her mother before her were only children and left fewer clues, fewer records, fewer photos, etc.  In an effort to put our story down in print and make it "come alive", I've joined the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" Project put forth by Amy Johnson Crow at -  which is pushing me to study one specific ancestor at a time, recording dates, events and tales of family lore.  I must say that while daunting to write about one ancestor each week, doing so puts a more human face on them and helps me to understand more about their lives in context.

Another commitment that just had to be made was to the "Genealogy Do-Over",    a challenge put forth by Thomas MacEntee.  After several years, I have stacks of notes and timeline information just laying around.  I need to organize my office, the stacks I've mentioned and my data files in particular.

I also enjoyed writing brief commentary for the 2015 FGS Ambassadors -  

 As I had spent a week in Salt Lake City last summer at the wonderful LDS Family History Library, I felt able to contribute some information as to where to go, where to eat, what to see, pack, etc.  That particular writing obligation ends this month with the start of the FGS Conference.

I do have a habit of biting off more than I can chew and I am going to try to limit this years activities to those aforementioned.  Fulfilling my obligations as a contributor is a joyous but time consuming task but I also want to reserve the time to read the work of others as well as to continue my own research.  So, I'm done for this month.  I share this time slot with a wonderful German researcher, Ursula Krause, who you will be hearing from next month on this date.  I look forward to reading her blog entry as well as all of yours.  I hope you've enjoyed my effort and I'll look forward to greeting you once more in March!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Growing up in America -- 1950’s and 1960's--2015, the Highlights

Hello World Wide Genealogy Blog readers-- I am a new author, Helen Spear Youngblood Holshouser.  As a means of introducing myself to you, I’d like to share my own story of growing up in America--especially coming of age in the 1960’s. As you well know, the 1960’s in America was a volatile time in history. I turned 11 years old in 1960, and 20 in 1969! What teenage years I had!

I grew up in a home in Richmond, Virginia, USA, with a live-in paternal grandmother in residence; she died when I was 15. There were also my Mom and Dad, and four of us children, older sister born 1942, older brother born 1947, myself in 1949, and my younger brother in 1955!  We generally gathered for dinner every night, seven around a table it was my job to set, and my sister’s and my job to clean up afterwards.

Sharing a room with my older sister, meant being exposed to some cultural things as a child I might not have been otherwise…like music, religious discussions, and long talks into the night about high school and boys!  I was in love with Elvis by the time I was 10! LOL

Events which I remember as being very important to me in my lifetime can be shown on this time line:

1949--born, (of course I don’t remember!) second girl, baby boomer, after WWII in which my father fought. Mom worked full time, unusual for the 1950’s. Mom and Dad and Grandmother had experienced the war and the depression, both affected their perceptions of life greatly.

1950-1975--the Vietnam War was ever present and a living topic in our home. Dad worked for the Federal Government in logistics and supply. He railed against communism all of our lives.

1952--President Dwight Eisenhower was elected the 34th President of the US, and serves for eight years, my ages 3-11. He was a large influence on my life. He was often the topic of conversation at home, and I had the opportunity to see him speak in Richmond, Virginia, while he was President.

1954--Hurricane Hazel hit taking down trees, and killing 95 people in the US.  I remember it hitting our neighborhood! We lost power for a week, cooked over the fire, and trees were blown down all over the place, cars and houses were destroyed, people killed!

1954--Landmark Supreme Court case, “Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas” requires public schools in the US to be integrated-- declares segregation of black and white citizens illegal. Nonetheless, I continue in all white schools throughout my school career.

1955--My little brother was born, a huge event in my life!

1955--I started public Elementary School in first grade and rode a school bus with my two older siblings. I continued in public schools of Virginia through 12th grade.

1959--January, Alaska becomes the 49th state in the US, and then in August, Hawaii becomes the 50th state! I remember the celebrations--fireworks and parades!  

1960, John F. Kennedy is elected as President of the USA, so young, so dynamic. I idolized him.

1961--“Freedom Riders” travel through-out the southern USA protesting segregated buses, schools, restaurants, etc.--I was 12 years old, and it got my attention!

1962--There was the Cuban Missile Crisis, where we children all thought we would be blown off the face of the earth by nuclear missiles any minute!  Fallout shelters became very popular, and our basement was sealed and well-stocked for survival! Cold war with the Soviet Union was a topic of frequent discussion in my home.

1963, August-- Martin Luther King delivers his “I Have A Dream” Speech which galvanizes the Civil Rights Movement already strongly active.

1963, Nov. 22--President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas, I was in ninth grade. I remember clearly our principal informing all of us, and silence falling as the impact was felt and many began to weep.

1964, February 9th, The Beatles appear on TV in America for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show, and like so many of my 15 year old friends, I fell in screaming love!

1964, June, I travel to the World’s Fair with my Girl Scout Troop after a year’s fund-raising effort! We are exposed to many international events and understandings we’d have never experienced otherwise. We also sang and danced to the Beatles’ music all the way up and back on the train from Virginia to New York City, New York.

1964, July 2--President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act. The Vietnam War is raging; many young men were dying for a war many did not believe in.

1965--Civil Rights riots are taking place all over the US with many people killed. Students join the protest marches in great numbers.

1966--I join a southern branch of “Up With People” called “Sing Out South”--a touring, singing group that I saw as optimistic and pro people of all races and creeds. 

1967--I graduate high school, Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia, and go on to attend a small private Methodist college in Greensboro, North Carolina, Greensboro College.

1968--Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. In April, and Senator Robert Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles, California in June! These events scare me and make me feel unsafe in our world.

1969--Richard Nixon is inaugurated as the 37th President of the USA.  Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. become the first men to land on the moon, July 20.

1970--Four college students are shot to death by National Guardsmen during an antiwar protest at Kent state University, May 1.  As a college student, I was stunned!  Instead of deterring me from social activism, it encouraged me to speak and act in their names!

1970-- Fall--I meet my husband to be, and we start dating in September.
-- I join a protest rally, several in fact, in support of Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War. I supported my many friends who were soldiers in the war, I just wanted them to come home alive, and I didn’t think the war was worth their lives. Once while I stood in solidarity with my friends-- as we stood arms linked around the perimeter of the campus, the North Carolina National Guard formed a ring around us. They had rifles and were four feet in front of us, also shoulder to shoulder. We sang, “We shall overcome one day” and “All we are asking, is give peace a chance” over and over. I have to say, I thought I might be shot and die that day.

1971--April--the schools in Richmond, Virginia where I was reared, were finally ordered desegregated by the courts!  My younger brother was bused across town to a traditionally all black high school. My parents, strong believers in public education, refused to move or to send him to private schools as most of his friends did. He rode a half empty neighborhood school bus to his new school at age 16. He was big and tall, but gentle, and everyday he was challenged to a fight, everyday he was assaulted in the bathroom! School became hell for him, and he dropped out. He began cutting school unbeknown to my parents until he’d missed two months and the school sent a letter finally!  He had a gifted level IQ, so he made up his schooling and attended college, but was impacted for life by this experience as were many youths, both black and white during this volatile time!

1971, June--I graduated from college! Went back to Richmond, Virginia, served as a lifeguard for my 7th summer, and then started teaching Emotionally Disturbed Children in September.

1971, December--I married Max Holshouser, a mechanical designer, woodworker, and teacher and had two children over the next eight years.  In 1978 I went to graduate school to earn a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. I moved from Richmond, Virginia, to Raleigh, North Carolina and moved from being a teacher of Emotionally Disturbed Children to being a family therapist and staff psychologist for a private practice and for public mental health. My social activism continued in a much milder way, volunteerism among other things.  

1999--age 50, I had a heart attack, preceded by weeks of unexplained fainting and coughing spells. Experimental open- heart surgery revealed a serious, non-bypassable, stage four heart condition that took me out of my life as I knew it, and made me a chronically ill person, living on disability, having to sell my house to survive financially, and one who was expected to die within five years! However, I am approaching my 16th year of this illness and have three delightful grandchildren as gifts of this life I never expected to have!

2001, Sept. 11--Terrorist attack the World Trade Center in New York and our world becomes dominated by the war on terrorism as well as the war on drugs. I got so upset about it, so mesmerized by it, that I ended up having another heart attack and spent a week in the hospital.

2011--I discovered, and my new hobby and life interest began!  It started as a way to give a gift of a small family tree to my last remaining aunt, and ended up as a passion for the rest of my life! 

2012-- I started blogging as I had always loved to write, but it wasn’t until February 2014, that I began to write about genealogy exclusively! So I am approaching my first anniversary of genealogical blogging which has opened a whole new world to me , including this present community in which I am just becoming involved, thank you very much! The title of my blog is Heart of a Southern Woman, and there you can find the list of surnames I am researching.


Notice what a melting pot American I am with ancestors from:  Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, and Wales, among others. My ancestry DNA says this is my ethnic DNA make-up:

 Europe 99%

·                     Europe West 51%
·                     Great Britain18%
·                     Ireland15%
·                     Trace Regions15%
·                     Iberian Peninsula6%
·                     Italy/Greece5%
·                     Scandinavia3%
·                     Finland/Northwest Russia< 1%

West Asia< 1%

·                     Trace Regions< 1%
·                     Caucasus< 1%


Well, now you know who I am, and I hope you enjoyed glimpse into one family in the American South.  I’m looking forward to getting to know many of you and your genealogical discoveries. I’d love to know what you experienced in the 1960’s as well: what did you think of the Kent State shooting? What did you experience of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, and the Vietnam War? I’d really like to hear of your own memories.



Sunday, 25 January 2015

Keep Clicking

When I first started blogging, I didn't give much thought to the type of blog I would create. Questions like am I a story teller or teacher didn't even enter my mind. As I started reading other blogs, I began to think I should provide tips and tricks. I'm computer literate. I've been designing business-to-business websites for as long as they've existed and understand the limits of databases and how to pull out the information contained in them. I also manage a research team and we know our way around government rules and regulations.

So I wrote a post about using census records in your research and taking full advantage of every bit of information contained in them. And I was one of the worst posts I've ever written and to this day I go back and forth when I think about deleting it. That experience taught me I am not a teacher. So I stuck with what I knew best -- telling stories.

But then I realized my stories sometimes contained research case studies -- not tutorials on how to do something in the abstract sense but rather how I did something to solve a specific research problem, using a tip or technique I learned from someone else. So today I'd like to present a case study, using a lesson gleaned from Hilary Gadsby's great post, Killing Them Off -- It Can Help Knock Down Those Brick Walls.

I have begun reviewing the beginning of my tree -- me -- working backwards and reviewing my research and what gaps I would like to fill in about each person (not quite a genealogy do-over, but sort of). As I got to the siblings of my paternal grandfather, I realized I did not have a death date for my grand uncle, Leo James Jennings. So that was my goal: to kill off Leo.

Effie Davis (Beard) Jennings; Leo James
Jennings' mother, who died in 1906; photograph
courtesy of Janie Darby

The first thing I did was write down what I already knew, how I knew it, and transcribed all the records I did have.

  • He was born on 29 October 1898 and that his parents were Charles Edward Jennings and Effie Davis Beard. I could surmise he was born in Roanoke, Virginia, as his parents were living there during the year of his birth.
  • In 1900 he was living with his parents, four half siblings and his older sister in Roanoke.
  • His mother died in 1906 when he was eight years old.
  • In 1910 he was living with his widowed father and three living siblings.
  • His father sent him to live with his half sister in Erwin, Tennessee by 1911, when his younger brother (my grandfather) was placed in an orphanage.
  • He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1916 at Big Gap, Virginia.
  • His father died in 1917.
  • He was discharged from the Army in 1919 and had served as a Sargent with the 104th Supply Train
  • He married Bonnie Sue Wolfe sometime before 1920.
  • In 1920 he and Bonnie Sue were living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and he worked as a mechanic at a tobacco factory
  • In 1922 he and Bonnie Sue were still living in Winston-Salem but he was now working as a machinist at South Royal.
  • In 1924 he and Bonnie Sue had a son they named James Wolfe Jennings; the son was born in Appalachia, Virginia.
  • On 10 August 1932 he was admitted to the U.S. Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Sawtelle, California, and suffered from myocardial degeneration, cardiac hypertrophy, conjunctivitis, and deviated nasal septum. His marital status was listed as divorced.

Sawtelle Veterans Home; photograph courtesy of the California
Historical Society Digital Collection

Frankly, I thought he was near death then, but couldn't find a death or burial record of any type for that general timeframe. So, I started researching his ex-wife, Bonnie Sue. I learned:

  • In 1930 Bonnie Sue was divorced and living in Appalachia, Virginia, and was the proprietor of a grocery store.
  • In 1940 Bonnie Sue was widowed and living with her father in Orlando, Florida.
  • Bonnie Sue died in 1969.

The 1940 federal census and 1940 Orlando city directory entries for Bonnie Sue seemed to confirm Leo's demise. Why no death record? After broadening my search and not concentrating on his death, I discovered a 1940 census record for Leo. He was alive!

  • In 1938 he was living in Los Angeles, California, and was working as an engineer for Econolite Corporation.
  • In 1940 he was living in Calabasas, California, working as a supervising inspector of traffic signals, and he was married to Kathleen G. Jennings, who worked as a secretary at a law office. They owned their own home and had a live-in housekeeper.

So I started trying to kill off Leo again with a different date for his possible death. I finally got a hit from Find a Grave worth pursuing. A Leo J. Jennings was buried at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. However, the date of birth and the date of death were listed as "unknown."


I clicked the cemetery link and discovered the cemetery had a website. So I clicked through to the cemetery site. On their home page, I discovered a burial search. I used it and lo and behold there was Leo's death date: 8 October 1973.  He certainly lived longer than I would have suspected with all the heart and respiratory issues he had in 1932.

Further research, included finding Leo's funeral notice in the Los Angeles Times, dated 5 October, which indicated he was buried on 8 October. His Department of Veterans' Affairs BILRS Death File listed his death date as 3 October 1973.

Screen shot of the burial search results for Green Hill Memorial Park,
Rancho Palos Verdes, California

Confusing with so many possible death dates, but I was successful in killing him off. The beautiful thing about this case study is that once I entered his death date in my tree, I started getting lots of hints about his second wife, Kathleen, who likely would have been a brick wall since I did not know her maiden name at the time.

So Hilary was right, killing them off can help break through those brick walls in your tree, but be sure  you explore each record and source thoroughly. Keep clicking your way through the information.

I'm signing off now to resume killing some more of my pesky brick wall ancestors.

The Irish Wife
Newly Discovered Photographs
The Mother Nobody Knew
A Lover Not a Fighter

Friday, 23 January 2015

Some Highlights of 2014 and what's to come.....

Some Genealogy Highlights of 2014 and Plans for 2015...

2014 was an interesting genealogy year for me.  My passion for blogging family history through my blogs FamilyHistory4u , Family Convictions - A Convict Ancestor and Sharn's Genealogy Jottings,  earned me a place in the top ten Genealogy Rockstars in the Australasian catagory of this competition for the second year running. I was most humbled and grateful that others found my blog posts interesting enough to vote for me, especially since my blogs had to take second place last year to a number of things, including ill health and study. I hope that in 2015 I will be back up and running - well writing! Here in my first post on the Worldwide Genealogy Blog, I will look back over the past year of 2014, and illuminate some of my genealogical highlights as well as looking ahead to the exciting family history events planned for 2015. I am writing this post from Tamworth in NSW ,where I am enjoying the Country Music Festival, which of course has nothing to do at all with genealogy, but is a whole lot of fun. I did however, manage to stop off on the 6 hour drive from Sydney, in  the Hunter Valley town of Singelton, to hunt down a convict ancestor's grave. Like most genealogists, I never miss an opportunity to visit the places where my ancestors came from. So, on to my genealogical highlights of 2014....

The most wonderful, heartwarming and exciting highlight of  my year, 2014 was, without a doubt....


Shortly before I left for the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival, in January last year, I noticed a particularly touching post from a friend on facebook who had shared a 1970's photograph of his biological father. It was his hope that through friends resharing his post all around the world, that he might find his father. I have read some heartwarming and moving stories about family members finding each other through social media, however, rather than leave the search to  facebook, I decided to see if I could find my friend Martin's father, hoping I had the skills to do so. Because this was such a personal search for my friend, and one I knew must surely meant a great deal to him, I telephoned him to ask if he would mind if I looked for the man he only knew from a 1970's photograph.
The journey began with a name, an occupation, a place where he lived in England from the 1970's, and the information that he was last though to have lived in Canada in the 1980's.

Martin was born in England but had emigrated to Australia as a young child with his mother and step father and no contact had been kept with his biological father over the many years. He had grown up not knowing what his father's background was but thought it to be Jamaican. I knew that this was an important search for my friend to find his father and his paternal roots and I wanted to help.

This search, with its twists and turns and amazing coincidences, along with its wonderful outcome, will be the subject of another blog post on my Family4u blog because I cannot do the story justice unless I tell it in its entirety. So stay tuned for that story....


2014 began with an exciting History/Genealogy UnlockthePast Cruise in February. As the huge ship, Voyager of the Seas pulled away from the dock in Sydney Harbour, I could hardly contain my excitement. Not only was this my first ever cruise, but the thought of nine days of fascinating conference topics whilst meeting up with old and new genea-friends  as we enjoyed the luxurious Royal Carribean Line  ship, was intoxicating. 

Even wild wind and rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the brave or foolhardy who stood on deck to gaze upon Sydney's glorious harbour as we made our way towards the Heads and out to sea southwards towards our first stop in Melbourne. From there we were headed to Adelaide then Hobart and back to Sydney on a nine day voyage of discovery.

Image SharnWhite
At the end of the cruise I had gained so much new knowledge, and was eager to put into practice the information I had gleaned from a wide range of speakers. A highlight of the cruise was joining the Society for One Place Studies which Kirsty Grey spoke in depth about. I was thrilled to receive my One Place Studies badge as well! I had already a one place study of Kaimkillenbun on the Darling Downs in Queensland, Australia although I must admit that registering my study is a goal for 2015! 


2014 was a year filled with new family connections, as my blog posts, Ancestry Tree and FamilyTree DNA linked me to family members in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Germany and here in Australia. In March I travelled to Brisbane, Queensland, to meet members of my paternal McDade family. We discovered our connection through a photograph on my blog that they recognised. We now chat daily via facebook. This year in 2015, I will finally meet my McDade third cousins in Chicago Illinois with whom I have been corresponding via facebook for several years now. Their great grandmother, Agnes McDade (Married name Leonard) was the sister of my great grandfather, John McDade who arrived in Australia from Glasgow Scotland in 1923. Since I am attending for the first time, the RootsTech Conference in Utah, I will be travelling on from Salt Lake City to meet my too many to name cousins. Very kindly my cousin Betsy is having me stay with her. I have a sneaking suspicion that we are in for lots of chatting and much fun! This trip will be another first for me as I am not used to such cold winters. 

I look forward to catching up with my genea blogging friends at the Rootstech Conference, to proudly sporting my brightly coloured blogger beads and to acquiring much new information which will help me in my research. 


Following the Unlock the Past Cruise, I was contacted by a researcher from the Great Southern Television Company with regard to an up and coming episode of Coast Australia; the second series. One of the episodes was to be filmed on Norfolk Island and part of the program was to feature the second settlement, which was the notorious convict establishment the island is infamous for, between 1825 and 1855. While researching ideas for the Norfolk Island episode, someone had discovered my blog posts in which I had written about my great great great grand uncle, convict Laurence Frayne. Laurence penned a 74 page most descriptive and eloquently written memoir of his long sentence on Norfolk Island and I had transcribed the diary, which is held in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. I have researched Laurence (also spelled Lawrence) Frayne extensively and after meeting with a director and producer of Coast Australia, I was invited to travel to the island to participate in the program and to be interviewed by Neil Oliver.

It was my great honour to accompany Dr Tim Causer, UK historian and transcriber and Norfolk Island second settlement expert. Missing our connecting flight in Brisbane, however, was not part of the plan, although I am certain that our trip to Norfolk via Lord Howe Island and then in our own special 'chariot' (below) was a much more exciting and adventurous way to arrive than on the usual Air New Zealand A320.
Image taken by Tim Causer-  a 3 hour flight from Lord Howe to Norfolk Island
The Norfolk Island episode airs in Australia on the History Channel on February 16....I will be in Salt Lake City following the Rootstech Conference and en route to Chicago so I am lining up a friend to tape the episode for me.


Before being invited to travel to Norfolk Island to appear in an episode of Coast Australia, I had booked to attend another Unlock the Past History/Genealogy Conference to be held there. Norfolk Island had long held a great fascination for me. Having researched the Convict settlement of the Second Settlement and knowing that I had two ancestors who had been convicted to serve sentences on the notoriously harsh penal colony, seeing Norfolk Island and walking in my ancestors' footsteps was something I had wanted to do for a long time. To achieve this dream twice in one year was much more than I had hoped for.

The conference was a great success with guest speakers who included, Shauna Hicks, Cathy Dunn and Liz McCoy. Liz is a Pitcairn descendant who possesses an in depth knowledge about the second settlement on Norfolk Island. She and Cathy Dunn also gave a most fascinating tour of the historical part of the Norfolk cemetery. I managed to completely fall in love with Norfolk Island and can highly recommend a visit to the KAVHA research centre and wonderful museums which tell the story of the island's history.

Convict ruins on Norfolk Island Image SharnWhite


Not only was 2014 a most successful year for my own personal family history research, but I also successfully helped find a few ancestors for other folk as well. I plan to post the stories of my 2014 discoveries in blog posts this year. 2015 posts will how I  solved a 106 year old mystery and found the mysterious Miss Pickles and how a DNA test may have put me on the road to finding the unknown German father of my great great grandfather.
I traced  my German ancestors back many more generations than I had previously done, thanks to the release of  German birth death and marriage records and many others. If you are a long time member of as I am, it is wise to continually check for new records that are released. I suggest you regularly take a look at the records added as those waving green ancestry leaves do not always point in the right direction and you might miss something!


One of my 2014 New Year's resolutions was to make more use of libraries and archives. One can become far too reliant upon the ease of internet and forget the wealth of information still 'hidden away' in archives


2014 was a year which saw me join a few new specialised genealogy facebook groups. I am not one to post for help much on facebook but I discovered that there is a significant amount of excellent advice and links to useful websites on many of these genealogy focused groups. In particular, I found several German groups most informative. If you have German ancestors I would recommend joining groups such as German Genealogy, German Genealogy Records Transcriptions, Brandenburg Genealogy/ Familienforschung Brandenburg and Baden Genealogy. There are groups for almost every region you might have ancestors from in Germany and other European countries. I found links to websites which were extremely helpful in my own research by participating in these groups. Facebook genealogy help groups are becoming increasingly popular and it is a wonderful way to share the knowledge you possess or to learn from others more knowledgeable than yourself or with access to records in countries you cannot visit. I joined new Australian, Irish and Scottish facebook  family history groups in 2014 also. It doesn't take long to become aware of which groups are going to be useful to you but it is a great way of expanding your genealogy research and keeping in touch with other like minded people.

I focused very much on my German ancestors in 2014 and I found the Online German Genealogy Records and Databases, an excellent place of reference for links to very useful German resources. FamilySearch has an excellent German database of German Church records. Free access to german records and databases can be found through a google search. One of my favourites can be found here.

As always, 2014 was a year in which I enriched many of my family stories through the use of the National Library of Australia's digitalised newspaper website, TROVE. It has been the personal stories that I have discovered in newspapers, that have added so much depth of understanding to the lives of my ancestors. Searching newspaper reports and advertisements will again be a significant part of my 2015 research. Local newspapers, in particular, can be the source of information such as where your ancestors went on holidays, what sporting teams they belonged to, donations they made locally, the church events they took part in, the opening of new industries or events they attended in the places where they lived and so much more and obituaries can be a veritable wealth of information.


2015 is already filling up with genealogical events for me. In February I am attending RootsTech 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am looking forward to meeting up with many genea-friends, some of whom I know personally and other whom I know through blogging or social media platforms. I am thrilled to be part of the largest Australian group of genealogists and genealogy bloggers to yet attend this event. Bring on the bright coloured blogger beads!

After an 8 day holiday on Norfolk Island in early January ( which of course included a good measure  of convict research as well as snorkling and exploring) and now a 7 day stay in Tamworth for another Music Festival, I will head back to my home in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to pack my bags for the USA.

Following the Rootstech Conference I am flying to Chicago to meet my McDade third cousins with whom I am well acqainted on facebook but whom I have not yet met in person. I am very much excited to be able to meet her and my many other relatives in Illinois, and to make this part of my family history become a real life story.

Returning to Australia in March, I will not have much time for jetlag, as I will be heading south from Sydney to Canberra, our National Capital City. In Canberra, I will attend the 14th Australasian Heraldry and Genealogy Congress. Time for meeting up with like minded friends, for information overload and loads of fun. And of course, out will come the blogger beads one again.

2015 is shaping up to be a busy year for me as a genealogist and a blogger and  I plan to continue keeping updated with regard to records and resources which are continually being updated and added to the internet as well as records being digitslised by archives and libraries.

One thing I very much look forward to in 2015, is being a member and participant of this worldwide blogging collaboration. As you can see from this post, I have very much been 'on holidays' for this month of January and I apologise that my blog may be somewhat in holiday mode. I am very much enjoying reading the posts from other group members and what better a way to share our knowledge and learn from each other. Many thanks to Julie Goucher of the blog Anglers Rest, for the many hours she must certainly put into co-ordinating such projects. 

Henry and the Popplet

Did you think I was writing a children's book? The post title would lead one to believe that was the case.

Popplet was discovered while attending a webinar. Thomas MacEntee, genealogy ninja, presented "Mind Mapping Your Research Plans and Results." I heard of the concept, but never thought to use it as a family history research tool.

Thomas explained "a mind map is a visual map of an outline or thought process". He went on to say we are already doing this function, but without software. Love the idea of taking research data and creating a visual pathway to solving genealogy problems.

To begin mind mapping, Thomas suggested "start with a concept or proof question" in the center. He goes on to say we should not go too broad.


not "all the information on ancestor" --- start with "where was ancestor born."

Thomas discussed several programs for mind mapping. The one that caught my attention was Popplet.

This program is free for five different popplets and seemed the easiest for beginners.

By the way ... Thomas strongly suggested we use color. Great idea. Make your Popplet pop! Nice way to visually identify various record sets.

So ... here is my first attempt to create a mind map.

What was the most pressing research problem? Henry Wakefield, 2nd great-grandfather, a stubborn road block.

Since there few facts about Henry, I felt comfortable adding all known information.

In the center we have Henry.

The red box contains the "1868 Baltimore City Directory". I uploaded the document, from Ancestry, into the database. Love the ability to add images!

I entered information gathered from the document into the notes field.

There is an icon located top right of each popplet. When you click, a box opens to add comments. Click again and it closes.

* Comment for this box ... Henry Wakefield, tailor, 290 S. Ann Street.

The blue box contains "Trinity German Lutheran Baptisms". The record is for Charles Wakefield son of Henry Wakefield and Elizabeth Judd.

* Comment ... "Trinity German Lutheran, 1853-1877: Baltimore City, Maryland. Ruppert, Gary B. Westminster, Md: Willow Bend Books, 2002". Book located at The Historical Society of Baltimore County.

The pink boxes contain United States Census, located on Ancestry, for Charles Wakefield. Records that contained helpful clues were the 1900 and 1930 censuses.

* Comment ... 1900, Charles lists father's birthplace as England - 1930, lists Wales.

The orange box contains an image from the "Wakefield Memorial" book.

* Comment ... Henry referenced in "Wakefield Memorial : comprising a historical, genealogical, and biographical register of the name and family Wakefield" compiled by Homer Wakefield, 1897. Have copy of book in personal collection.

What did I gain from this exercise?

* It was fun to learn something new.

* Like the visual overview of Henry's life in one location. Each time we discover new hints, they will be placed on the map.

* Like the collaboration aspect of Popplet. Will introduce this concept to my brother, who is also working to solve the riddle. Never know ... we just may pop in the last piece of the puzzle!

Come along and popplet.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Genealogy Do-over and Genealogy Software

The Genealogy Do-Over has certainly been creating a storm of commentary.  Observing the comments has proved a shiny distraction that has lead me away from the research I had planned. 

The good stuff

Whether you are participating as a do-over, a go-over/review-over/do-better, have pressed the pause button, or are a spectator,  I think you cannot deny that the lively discussions, sharing of tips and resources, and learning something new are all good things.  I can't even begin to keep up with the volume of traffic of the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group. I am pleased to see Thomas MacEntee has created a Genealogy Do-Over Bag-the-web page  to bring together the now over 200 participant's blog posts, and Pintrest board but am not sure he has everything.

There has been some very interesting assessment and documentation of research processes going on:

An indictment on the genealogy software industry?

Have you noticed the variety of tools used by authors of the above blog posts?  There has been an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with traditional genealogy software for some years now.  Back in 2009 I posted Data entombed in Family Tree Maker in which I described difficulties in transferring data from one program to another.  The outdated and unsupported GEDCOM data exchange format has still not been replaced.

As genealogical education becomes ever more widely available, it is not surprising that many researchers strive to do quality research.  Paradigms have shifted toward the Genealogical Proof Standard and source-centric methods.  Genealogical software lags behind the thinking of genealogists.

Tony Proctor's Hierarchical Sources explores how software might support research processes, which is much more than just a source citation.

Is your head spinning?  Yes - excellent, you have been thinking.  Welcome to the thinking person's pursuit - genealogy.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Finding a place for global family reunions

So, you're the one that inherited the old family photo album. Your distance cousin has the family bible. Is it possible to create an online archive to preserved and share these family treasures without hiring a professional web designer and going to great expense? Yes! You can even hold private meetings where family can join from virtually any spot on the face of the earth with a computer and Internet access.  This month we'll discuss setting up a Google+ Community. Next month we will get into how to host a private Hangout on Air.

It's all about improving communication with your distant family members.

IMAGE: Horydczak, Theodor, approximately 1890-1971, photographer
from the Library of Congress collection.

Set up is surprisingly simple, and since most have Gmail account, your family members are half-way there. There are just three steps to creating the family space:
  • Create a Google+ Community.
  • Add photos, videos and scanned images.
  • Invite family members individually.

1. Create a private Google+ Community. (You want it private to avoid unwanted guests in this space.) You'll log in here: and click the "Create Community" button shown below:

Next be sure to make the community private, and select "No, Hide it from searches" in response to the question "Can people search for your community?" as shown below.

Follow the screen prompts to name your community, add a "logo" graphic for the community, etc.

2. Add photos and scanned images of a few important documents to get things started and build up content. With 10-15 individual posts of interesting photos, your family members will see the value of this new space. Unlike Facebook, Google+ does not restrict your members views of posts by 94%. This is a screen shot of Grandma Pat's Musings, the Google+ Community I created to share stories and pictures with my grandchildren. I am careful to refer to my Dad as "great-grandpa" since that is who he is in the eyes of my grandchildren, my target audience.
  • Point A - I chose a casual pic with my husband to be the "logo" graphic for the Gramma Pat's Musings community on Google Plus. 
  • Point B - You may add videos that reside on YouTube or elsewhere on the web. In this case, my 3-year old granddaughter loves the Disney movie Frozen, and so she got a big kick out of the song "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" parody "Do you want to Drive My Tractor?" Naturally, this belongs in our private family space on the web. 
  • Point C -  One may add categories and rearrange the left nav bar in communities they own.
  • Point D - One may elect to "pin" a post to keep it at the top when people arrive at the community. In this case I pinned a photo of my parents, because of a wedding anniversary coming up.

Notice I keep the story short and sweet, just two or three lines. If I have more to tell, I can add additional text as comments below the image. I'm trying to attract youth. If we were to scroll down through the community you'd see I have current and old photos of each grandchild, and funny images of their parents as children.

3. Invite  - Once you've got your private Google+ Community organized and filled with intriguing content, you'll want to scroll to the top right to find the "Invite people" button, circled in green in the screen shot above. Up pops a dialog box where you can compose a sentence or two for the invitation. Notice the "logo" photo shows up in this invitation. You may invite family members by Google+ profile or email. If they don't yet have a Google Account, they will be invited to create one.

WORLD WIDE PERSPECTIVEFew have the privilege of living in multiple generation households. Employment takes some family units halfway around the world. Creating a private (read that safe) family space on the web to share old family photos, kids' soccer pics, recipes, etc. brings families closer together.

Google+ Communities are free, and easy to set up. Let us know how you've decided to organize your private family community.

Pat Richley-Erickson,

Do you love digital records? Pros and Cons?

Wordle: WWG
Image created with Wordle
At first glance I’m sure most of us would readily agree. After all, what’s not to like in being able to search various genealogical records at any time, day or night, wherever you are in the world. The heavy hitters of the genealogy world, Ancestry, Find My Past, My Heritage, Family Search, and a plethora of others, keep offering us a smorgasbord of delightful records from various countries.  Archives and Reference Libraries also have been motivated by the growth of the family history industry to digitise some of their records, and index others. Among these, Australia’s Trove is a totally free wonderland of treasures of all sorts. You might be surprised how many overseas stories are covered there.

Similarly it’s great that, no matter where we live, we can become friends with people we’ve never met in person but with whom we share a passion for all things genealogical – this blog being just one example of collaboration without geographical boundaries.

So why am I even asking what might be classed a rhetorical question? Let me explain.

I’m a geneadinosaur having started my research when personal computers were in the infancy of their use and had vastly less memory than today’s memory sticks. Archives and reference libraries were meant for “serious” researchers and genealogists really weren’t catered for to any great extent. This made for a tough learning curve but it did generate determination, record discrimination, and some grassroots acquisition of knowledge.

With some pretty tight closure periods to data it also made for a good exercise in lateral thinking as to how to find the information you wanted. For example, death indexes closed? Search newspapers (via microfilm), request searches for death certificates, look for family names in funeral notices, search cemeteries (on site), and use funeral director’s books.

So am I advocating a return to the “good ol' days”?

Not at all but I do think there are some things which we can tend to miss when viewing shaky leaves or findings via other online options.
  • I  think one of the biggest issues with digital records is the tendency to zero straight in on ”your” one record and only that one….I know I do it sometimes. 
When you’re looking at an online census record (or any other) do you go straight to the name you’ve been searching for ?
Do you look at the adjoining pages to see if there’s family nearby?
Do you hunt down missing family members in case they’re staying with extended family?
Do you look to see what sort of neighbourhood they live in, who their neighbours were, and their occupations?
What standard of housing they’re living in? 

  • Do you document the source you’ve used to find that information? I’ll bet a fiver that each and every one of us has made that omission, especially in the early days of our research!
  • Do you explore what else is available for your place of interest by searching by place name? Most of the big genie-resources let you do that and you may find that there’s a totally unexpected record that might be of relevance to your search.
  • Do you quickly conclude that if you can’t find something in one of the online sources do you assume it just doesn’t exist? Do you check the timeframe for the specific record you’re searching? You might also want to check the catalogues for the archives in your ancestral places.
  • Do you use Family Search’s catalogue to see what they have offline? There is so much available that still isn’t digitised. I often see queries from people with Irish ancestry, for example, where the microfilms are available for ordering in at a pittance. Many a genealogical problem can be solved by eye-balling the original microfilmed document. You are the one familiar with your family and you’re more likely to pick up families whose names have been spelled inconsistently, or where occupations or townlands might solve your mystery. 
  • How do you maintain your genealogical information? In narrative form? In a genealogy program? Online? What are the benefits of each? I’ve often mentioned on my blog that I find genealogy programs like a straight-jacket: useful for the lineage but not the nuances, or perhaps that’s just the gap in how I use them. For years I’ve used an Australian program called Relatively Yours because it allowed me to add the sort of biographical nuances typical of families. However for various reasons I’m about to change track and move across to Family Historian…I’m hoping it will stack up favourably based on geminate recommendations.
    Image from
    How do you keep track of what you’ve got? Do you maintain a research log? Put everything in Evernote? Store digital files, preferably with a consistent naming format? 
I confess to being too haphazard in this regard and I need to do quite a bit of work tidying up my computer files. With decades of information and a mountain of paper files to digitise it will keep me busy.

It seems I’m not alone in this data confusion judging by the buzz round the geneaglobe generated by Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over and there’s heaps of ideas coming from the Facebook group.

  • Do you go back and look over your files, digital or hard copy to check your data recording is correct and you’ve absorbed all the information on each document?
  •  Do you purchase documents you need, especially certificates? Again, I’m often surprised by “brick walls” which could be knocked down with a relatively small expenditure. Yes, the costs add up but it’s cheaper than golf or sailing or…and they can always be presents.
  • Having found the document, saved it and documented it, do you then forget all about it as it disappears into your computer system?
  • Are you overwhelmed by the sheer avalanche of information coming out almost daily? How do you approach the process systematically? I’d certainly like to hear your ideas on that!
    Image from
During 2015 I’m hoping to have a spring-clean of the record copies I hold. I’ll be digitising them (partly as a safety strategy given the risk of cyclones); slowly checking my file names and reviewing what I have and what I need to follow up. Here’s what I wrote about my 2015 goals.

So what’s your position on the pros and cons of digitised records, or more importantly, how we use them in our research? Please share your thoughts in the comments…I’d certainly like to hear them.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Want To Be A Geneablogger?

Created on by Fran Ellsworth

My thoughts recently turned to new Bloggers or those that feel the inner pull to join in and and start blogging.  Many I have talked to have wonderful stories to share but are hesitant because they are not sure of what to blog or how to blog.

Following that train of thought I was led to my first year of learning to blog. My daughter set my blog up for me. I had no idea of what I was doing until I found Geneabloggers or should I say they found me and commented on my first blog post. They started expanding my thoughts out to more than just my Hero stories. I  had been motivated by wanting to write my Hero stories, but felt unprepared as to how to thes.  I began visiting other blogs such as Carol on Reflections From the Fence, and Lori's Family Trees May Contain Nuts and Jen on Muddy Boot Dreams.  These ladies introduced me to others through activities and comments on their blogs.   These bloggers also introduced me to Jill GeniAus and Julie Angler Rest. All the blogs I read gave ideas, encouragement, and some how to do research and write about it. They spurred me along.
So if you are pulled toward blogging, you should do it.  It is a lot of fun, you learn so much about yourself and finally about your ancestors.  Why do I say about yourself?  Because you will discover how creative you can become, or maybe how devoted to detail you are, and maybe even become a techie person like Caroline Pointer 4 Your Family Story who started out writing her family history stories.  There is so much diversity in genealogy bloggers. They are from all over the world, I have geni-friends from India, England, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Canada, and I know I have missed some.  The stories they share are as diverse as they are but the emotional element is the same. Love, strife, challenges, pride, pain, intrigue, etc., they are all felt across the world.
Going back to where I started, if you feel the pull to join the genealogy bloggers and put out some cousin bait as some call it, then here are a few places that can help you with setting out on this journey.
Found on ClipArt Panda
Thomas MacEntee has created the greatest resource for a beginning blogger... GeneaBloggers. Just look at the titles Blog Resources.  Here you find How to Create a blog resources, templates and design tools links.  I started with my own thoughts on my blog picture and haven't changed it... guess I am like that.
He also has Daily Blogging Prompts that will help if you think you don't have any ideas.  Once you have created your blog you can join the Genealogy Blog Roll. Basically we should all be grateful to Thomas for all he does for genealogy blogging. This specific post is a great one. Genealogy Blog Primer 

Kimberly Powell who writes about genealogy on offers this Blogging Your Family History

Lisa Cooke, I love her pod casts, has this on YouTube. How to Blog About Your Family History.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars has a great one on Blogging for Beginners with DearMYRTLE

There are more, but these should be of great help to you. Once you get started you will want to follow fellow genealogy bloggers. You will find the ones that help. You do not have to be a professional genealogist to write your family history blog.

With these thoughts, I will sign off for another month. I hope this finds someone who is on the fence about blogging and they will join our ranks.