A Busy Time

My attention has been really divided lately. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on things related to my Stampin’ Up! business, but at the same time I’m trying to spend some time reading (at the rate I’m going I’ll never finish A Game of Thrones) and work a bit on genealogy. And it’s only going to get worse the next couple of weeks, but since most of it involves genealogy in some way, it should all be fun regardless of how busy I end up.

This weekend we’re having a family reunion for my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. I can’t wait to see who turns up! It wasn’t planned very long ago, but it’ll nice to see whoever makes it.

On September 6, I’ll be starting Boston University’s Online Certificate Program in Genealogical Research (this is why I’m trying to fit in extra time for reading right now, since I don’t know how much time I’ll have during this program). It’s a 15-week program, so I’ll be finishing shortly before Christmas. I hope I’m ready for it! I didn’t want to wait until the spring session because the fall is a slower time at work, so hopefully my strategy works out. I am far from being new to genealogy, but sometimes I feel like I am because it’s only been a few months since I started embracing it as something I really want to do, beyond helping my mom out with a project here and there. If someone asks me how long I’ve been doing genealogy, I have no idea what my answer will be. I should probably figure that out sometime.

Also on September 6, I’ll be heading to Springfield, IL, for the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2011 Conference!  I had been hoping to go to this since the NGS annual conference is at a bad time of year for me right now, but then realized my grandma’s 80th birthday is September 11, which is kind of a bad conflict for someone who values her family. However, late last week I found out she’s going to be off visiting our relatives in British Columbia at that time, so there’s no longer a conflict. Mom and I figured this out too late to get approval to take time off from work too late for online registration so we’ll be registering onsite, but this evening Mom made arrangements for our hotel and got us signed up for the bus from the Minnesota Genealogical Society. I’m so excited not just to attend my first genealogical society, but also to start meeting other genealogists. It’s not always easy for me as an introvert, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

So things are busy, but at least I should have some things to blog about, right?

So Much Fun!

I’ve been spending a little time lately balancing out my life, so that genealogy isn’t the only thing I’m doing during my spare time. I tend to get into a zone where I concentrate on one thing for a time, then switch to something else for a time, and while that can be helpful, usually I end up feeling out of sorts, and like I’m really missing some of the other things I like to do, like read or knit or stamp some cards or solve a Sudoku puzzle. In particular, I’m in the midst of reviving my Stampin’ Up! business, and I haven’t spent hardly any time over the past week or so working on genealogy.

Because I’m mostly in a stage of data collection and verification, most of what I’m doing is just working on finding what I can find on Ancestry.com. This is primarily census records and whatever other typical records (like draft registration cards) turn up. So, yes, this is mostly about shaking leaves right now, but it’s not like I accept anything that turns up. I use my best judgment looking at all the other information I have before accepting a hint.

Besides the shaking leaves, though, I do my best to fill in the gaps the leaves sometimes don’t fill in for me. Maybe a census record doesn’t turn up automatically because of a typo or whatever; I track down as much as I can. And while maybe it isn’t terribly important for me to trace all the collateral relatives I run across, especially at this point, it might be one of the things I’m having the most fun doing. Whether the person I’m working on is my second cousin twice removed or the “mother-in-law of sister-in-law of 1st cousin 1x removed of husband of 2nd cousin 3x removed” (copied from someone I was working on today) doesn’t really matter to me; I’m just having so much fun collecting everything I can!

I’m really starting to hope that one day I can do this as my “day” job.  I’m trying to spend some of my time learning all I can, but I really need to figure out the next best step.

What I’ve Been Up To

I promise this blog has not been abandoned! June turned out to be way busier than I thought it would be. There was lots of family time to be had, with a fair amount of travel thrown in. But through it all, I spent plenty of time working on genealogy projects.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned early on that much of the work on my own family tree has been researched by my mom over the years, so a lot of what I’ve been doing is entering the names and info into my own database and making sure there’s documentation to verify as much of the information as possible. My mom has over 20,000 people in her database, so it’s going to take me a while to get everything verified (I’m at about 700 now, but they’re not all as documented as I’d like yet). For a while I was working primarily on my direct ancestors and their immediate families, but lately I’ve been going back and filling in the descendants of those immediate family members. I’m finding that while I’m curious about learning all there is to know about my ancestors, I also want to learn about who more of my distant modern-day relatives are.

But I can’t help but poke at particular mysteries from time to time. For example, where was my third-great-grandfather Nathan S. Wood between the Civil War and when we believe he turns up in Utah in 1910? He died in California later that year and we know that is the right person based on a photo in his pension records, but his whereabouts before that are yet unknown. I do searches here and there on Ancestry.com or GenealogyBank.com (I have a one-month trial to see how useful this site is for me, and I did find a couple of interesting items about Nathan S. Wood in Congressional records from 1907), but what I really need to do is look through the research others in the extended family have already done. That sounds like a good task for today!

Family Time

I took an unintentional break from blogging while my brother and his family were visiting from Alaska for about 10 days. My brother, sister-in-law, and their oldest son, who had been living here in Minnesota since August, have returned to Alaska, but the two younger boys will be here for most of the month.

Rest assured, however, that I haven’t been taking a break from genealogy! I’ve made some discoveries on my dad’s side that I’ll posting about soon.

My original plan for learning about my ancestors and keeping track of some of the information was a set of notebooks, one for each grandparent. What I’m finding, however, is that I’ve sort of been recording my findings all over. Sometimes in my mom’s database if I’m on my own laptop, sometimes in my notebooks, sometimes just bookmarking a page on FamilySearch until I can deal with it later. It’s becoming a little confusing. So I ended up starting a tree with my own Ancestry.com account.

Even though I’m referring to the research my mom has already done to get the ball rolling, it has still been a bit more fun for me to put it all in myself and see what Ancestry finds for me, rather than just using my mom’s file. Her online file also doesn’t have sources attached, which is part of what I want to change with my file. It’s super helpful that I can attach many census records to all the individuals listed at once. I’ve figured out a few of the quirks of doings things this way, like how to edit citations so I don’t have three different “Arrival” facts. I’ve been impressed that Ancestry found a census record for me where the name was indexed as “Niederholt” rather than “Wiederholt.”

An added bonus is the recent iPad/iPhone app for Ancestry; it’s fantastic that I can make updates there and they’ll sync up online. I can’t wait to see how the two-way sync with Family Tree Maker 2012 will work too. Now I just have to figure out how to pay for an Ancestry subscription when my 14-day trial runs out.

Finding Alfred Tolberg

My mom’s side of the family is a mix of nationalities, but my dad’s is entirely Swedish. Three of my four great-grandparents on that side were born in Sweden and immigrated to the United States between 1887 and 1912 or so. The fourth family arrived earlier, in time for my second-great-grandfather Alfred Tolberg to fight in the Civil War. His service might be a great topic for another post sometime, but today I’m concentrating on one of the few mysteries my dad wanted solved, which was finding where Alfred was buried. He survived the Civil War (good thing, since he didn’t get married until a good ten years after he came back home), and died in Minneapolis in 1913. Dad wanted to ensure that his grave marker indicates his Civil War service. He’d also like to locate Alfred’s wife’s grave (she died 11 years before Alfred), but that mystery is yet to be solved.

Trying to locate Alfred’s burial site, my parents had visited various cemeteries in Chisago County, Minnesota, because it was generally assumed he and his wife were buried in the area in which they lived. Things weren’t looking good for finding Alfred or his wife, Mary. Unfortunately, some records have been lost from at least one church that I’m aware of, which complicates matters.

A couple of summers ago, I was going through some information my parents had compiled about my dad’s side of the family in preparation for a reunion. This side of my family doesn’t get together very often, so I’m sure my mom had found lots of new things to share with them, and I was proofreading something my dad had written up . I was also looking through some of the documents, including Alfred’s death certificate, which my mom had received in 2004. Under burial it just said “Layman’s.” At this point I had only a mild interest in genealogy, but I can’t resist a good mystery, fictitious or otherwise.

If my mom had been around that morning (I was at their house, but they were outside doing yardwork or some such thing) I might have asked her what Layman’s meant, and she probably would have told me what her working assumption had been to that point, which was that it was a funeral home. That thought occurred to me as well, and I started a Google search to see if I could find any funeral home with that name that would have been around in 1913. I didn’t find that, but it didn’t take long until my search revealed an article from a local paper called “Buried History” (a recommended read if you’re interested in cemetery history or the history of Minneapolis; it’s pretty fascinating), the story of Layman’s Cemetery in Minneapolis. The cemetery is now known as the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery.

Plaque from Layman's Cemetery

Plaque from Layman's Cemetery

I was astounded that it might be as simple as that. Could Alfred really be buried so close (my parents and I live in suburban Twin Cities), in a cemetery in the city in which he died rather than being taken back home?

Though I’ve lived in the Twin Cities area pretty much my entire life, I don’t know as much as I should about the area’s history. I had no idea this cemetery existed, but even if I did, I might not have put it together with its original name. And then, even if Alfred had been buried there originally, many bodies were moved after the cemetery was no longer maintained properly in the 1910s. The cemetery was taken over by the city of Minneapolis and is now maintained by the Park Board.

I also found a website that day for the cemetery, where you can search to see if someone is or was buried there. However, the index is incomplete, and I was unable to find Alfred that way. So the next day my parents and I went to the cemetery to see if we could find him in their records. Unfortunately, the on-site building was locked up with no one to help in sight. We wandered around a bit to see if we happened upon his grave, but the cemetery is quite large (20,000 are still buried of the nearly 30,000 total).

My mom went back later in the week and found someone available to help her, and was able to find the card for Alfred.

Layman's record for Alfred Tolberg

Layman's record for Alfred Tolberg

And with that, verification of Alfred’s location. His grave is unmarked, so our next step is to get that taken care of, perhaps by Memorial Day next year, or at least by the 100th anniversary of his death, which is only a couple years away.

Site of Alfred Tolberg's Grave

Site of Alfred Tolberg's Grave

Filling in the Gaps

My mom has been working on our family’s genealogy pretty much my entire life, so in some respects, it seems like there’s not a lot for me to do. I won’t be enjoying the achievement of tracking down the names of all 16 of my great-great-grandparents because that was done long ago. Heck, in most of the lines the first real holes don’t appear until my 64 fourth-great-grandparents.

So what exactly am I doing here?

Right now I’m mostly learning. I’m not a complete novice, but there’s plenty I don’t know. My mom has been telling me about the people in my family tree forever, but usually when this happened my eyes would eventually glaze over because I couldn’t visualize who she was talking about or how they were related to me. So to begin with, I’ve created a notebook for each grandparent’s line that has a page for each person for five generations past that grandparent (that’s all that will fit in these particular notebooks). I’m recording basic information for each person and what documents we have to back that info up, which is helping me learn the names and how they relate.

While I’m working on these notebooks, I can’t help but notice the gaps in information, things like not having all the applicable census records or not knowing a particular date. In some cases, the information just might not have been easily available the last time my mom searched for it.

For example, the other day I noticed that for ancestor Benjamin Buckland (b. 1812, North Perrott, Somerset, England), we don’t have good information about his wives beyond their first names, including not being sure which one is the correct mother for his daughter who is our ancestor. I checked Ancestry to see if anything has popped up since whenever the last time my mom checked, and while I didn’t find any of the information I was seeking, I did run across some probate information that included his actual date of death, rather than the three-month range we previously had. Perhaps the actual date isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things, but it was exciting to me to find it! And really, isn’t that all that matters?

In other cases of gaps in information, Mom has the “missing” documents, but they aren’t recorded or linked in Family Tree Maker. Now another thing I’m starting to work on is organizing things better, which just happens to be one of my favorite things to do.

So for now, it seems I’m sort of a fact checker, working to help fill in the gaps.

New Genealogy Blog

It’s not like I needed another hobby. I love to read and knit in addition to keeping up with many other interests I enjoy, such as my favorite TV shows, movies, science, technology, and baseball. And it’s not like there’s no one else in my family working on genealogy; my mom has been working on it for nearly my entire life, and there are other folks out in the branches of our family tree working on related pieces too.

But the genealogy bug has bitten me whether I wanted it to or not. I’m not completely sure why I’ve been avoiding it all this time, except perhaps that I know how time-consuming it can be from my mom’s experience, and I hardly needed anything else like that. But it has been extremely fun diving into the research and it’s a bonus that genealogy draws on my interests in history, archaeology, photography, and genetics, along with my skills of organization and attention to detail.

Over the years I’ve occasionally worked on a particular project here and there that captured my interest. One that I poke at once in a while is on my Grandpa Wood’s side, where we have a possible connection to the Salem Witch Trials. Our ancestor is Sarah Proctor, but so far I’ve had trouble pinning down exactly which Sarah Proctor. It might be John Proctor and Elizabeth Bassett’s daughter, which would be a very direct link, or it might be her cousin of the same name and similar age. The most recent thing I learned regarding this project is that the records I probably need from New London, CT, to figure this out might have been burned by Benedict Arnold in 1781. But I’ve hardly given up; I just need to learn about better places to look.

My intent with this blog to write about my discoveries, frustrations, insights, and adventures as I delve into geneaology. At some point I also plan to start writing up stories about my family’s history, including the many photos my mom has been able to gather over the years. I hope to also share some family letters.

I am also looking into attending conferences, joining genealogical societies, and pursuing educational opportunities, all of which will be part of my adventure. Maybe this will lead to being something more than just a mere hobby.

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