It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything about my participation in Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. That is because it has been keeping me so busy, that I have not been able to drag myself away to post an update about my progress. But I wanted to take the time to write gush about how this has been such an eye-opening and re-vitalizing experience this has been for me

First of all, I had realized that I had some of the holes my research and documentation when I started back in 1990. Documents concerning information on my own grandparents are a perfect example. I’m sure my mindset back then was, “Well, I knew Grandmom, I know what dates she was born, I have copies of her death certificate and marriage certificate. All the spaces are filled in on the family group sheet. I can move on.” However, when I looked at Grandmom’s death certificate, and began to ANALYZE the information on there, I discovered something that could potentially baffle any future researchers. I remember that my grandmother died in Virginia, where she was living with my aunt. She was cremated, and my aunt and her uncle drove her ashes up to my hometown in Pennsylvania, so that she could be buried alongside her parents in the family plot. I was there for the memorial service and I also remember visiting the cemetery once and seeing where she was buried. However, her death certificate from Virginia does not indicate any burial for her, since she was cremated. If a future researcher saw this death certificate, they would never know that her ashes were then actually buried in Pennsylvania. So, I knew that I would need to get some documentation to support my firsthand knowledge. So on my to-do list for my next trip to Pennsylvania, will be to stop at the cemetery office for information on her burial, get a photo of her headstone (which I never, ever had) and also stop at the library to get a copy of her obituary, because I had never had a copy of that either.

I had also discovered that there was a discrepancy in the date of birth of my great grandfather. I had always had his birthdate as April 16, 1882, because that was what was stated on his death certificate. However, on a church baptism record that I had found on, his date of birth was listed as April 25, 1882. However, his baptism took place 2 years after his birth. So, coming to a conclusion as to what his true birthdate is, will need more analysis. And, truth is, I may never find certain proof that one date is the true date over the other.

Screen shot 2015-05-10 at 8.39.16 AMAnalyzing each document is probably the biggest change for me. I use Family Tree Maker as my base for keeping all my data. In addition to properly citing the source within the program, I’ve also learned to utilize the “Notes” feature more within the program to transcribe the information of each source I find. This was a tip that I had picked up from watching a youtube video by Crista Cowan of Ancestry. I cannot begin to tell you how eye-opening that has been. I think I’ve discovered new, little facts that I have not noticed before, for ancestors that I had felt I had all bases covered.

I’ve also decided to take on learning Evernote as a support tool for my research. As I mentioned, I use Family Tree Maker as my primary tool to keep all my family research data in. However, I feel that I also need a research log and correspondence log, just so I can keep track of what I had researched already, and who and where I had written to to get church records, court records, etc. This was something I had actually started doing back when I first started in 1990, however I wrote them on paper log sheets that I had purchased from Ancestry back in the early 90s, before they even had records online. But, I wanted to start keeping online logs, because I felt there wasn’t much room on the paper ones for notes. I tried to utilize the “task list” on Family Tree Maker, but I felt that feature wasn’t working for me like I had wanted it to do.  I was inspired to try Evernote after attending a genealogy conference back in March. I found some templates online, and used those to craft my own. I am so far happy with the results. I also use Evernote to create my research plans.

Screen shot 2015-05-10 at 10.40.48 AMI just want to note that I use Evernote as support, and it is by no means what I use to store my family history. I just use it to keep track of when and where I got my information as well as places I had searched and did not find a single thing. It helps me to not only know to not look at that place again, but also helps me when I cite my sources. I also know that many people are not familiar with computers and learning a new software program is very intimidating. There is nothing wrong with keeping track of such things on paper sheets. There are many sites where you can download those for free. The whole point is that you are keeping track of where and when you are getting your information from. Just do it the way you feel most comfortable doing!

One of the points covered in Thomas’ blog for week 6 is Online Education options. I have been looking into these before this week. There is so much out there and so much material covered. I will typically listen to a podcast or just listen to a youtube video while I’m at work. They’re always easy to stop and back up again if you find yourself interrupted or you just want to listen to one part again. I highly recommend Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems podcast, Ancestry’s Crista Cowan’s Barefoot Genealogist on YouTube, and DearMyrtle on YouTube. In fact,, in general, has a WEALTH of information on there if you do a search for “genealogy.”

I also recommend checking out your local genealogy and/or historical society. Last winter, I had felt like I was in a rut with my research and felt I needed new tactics. I discovered the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society’s website and was pleased to find that they were having a conference in Madison, WI, where I live. I attended in March, and it was definitely worth the time and money. It was exactly what I needed to get out of my rut. Not only do you benefit from great speakers, but you can meet other genealogists and talk to them about methods, strategies and just genealogy in general. In fact, it was there that I had learned about Genealogy Do-Over.

Since then, I had also bought a membership to the society, where they hold free live webinars once a month (last month Thomas was the featured speaker), and members have access to previously held ones. So, my plan is to keep continuing to educate myself on the genealogy proof standard, analyzing evidence and citing my sources through the online sources I had discovered in the past few months, as well as a few new ones that were listed in Week 6’s blog post.

Michael C. Logue, b 1871 in Allentown, PA. D. 1921 in Philadelphia, PA. Original photo in possession of Kathy Ender, Hilton Head, SC. Scanned and sent to Patricia Rohn.

WEEK 18: How my great-grandmother’s will solved the mysterious disappearance of Michael C. Logue

“Where there’s a will…” is this week’s 52 Ancestors theme. I have chosen to write about how a will broke through a brick wall for me. I remember it with such clarity, because it was this that made me realize how important will and probate records can be to genealogy research.

When I first started researching my family tree back in the 1990s, I could not find out much about my great grandfather. I knew his name because it was listed on my grandfather’s birth certificate. I asked my dad about him, and he said he never knew him. He said that he thought that he left my great-grandmother and their 8 children, and was never heard from again. And this was “back in the day” before there were ANY online records and I had to solely rely on good old fashioned renting microfilm at my local Family History Center and  letter writing. So finding out what happened to Michael seemed very bleak.

I discovered a little bit about him by looking at microfilm of census records and other family vital records. The 1910 Census was the latsest census available to the piblic at that time. That record indicated he was born about 1871 in Pennsylvania. My grandparents’ marriage application in 1926, listed him as father of the groom, and was “dead.”   From there, I assumed that Michael may have died between 1910 and 1926.

I found the 1893 marriage application for Michael and his wife, Elizabeth Donnelly on a roll of microfilm for Philadelphia Marriage records and that he was a furniture salesman. On that, Michael stated that he was born in Allentown, PA. That clue led me to ordering the microfilm 1880 Census for Allentown, where I found him living with his parents, Manus and Ann Logue on Liberty Street in Allentown. I wrote to the Catholic church that was right across the street from the address I found in the Census, and they were able to provide me with not only Michael’s birth and baptism, but also the names, and birthdates of his siblings.

I found out almost everything except his date of death. The time period I had it narrowed down to was still too broad and having vital records do a search for me during 1910 and 1926, would have cost me an arm and a leg.

I had lots of information on Michael’s wife, Elizabeth too. Up to that point, I felt that a copy of her death certificate was sufficient enough. I knew all of children, so I felt that I wouldn’t really need a copy of her will. I’m not sure what prompted me to change my mind, but one day in 1995, I sent off to request to the Philadelphia Register of Wills, for a copy of Elizabeth Logue’s records.

Almost 2 weeks later, I received a very thick packet from Philadelphia. I had not expected to learn much from this package, so I was so surprised that one one page, was the answer to the question that I had been searching for.


I could not have filled out that form to request the death record from Pennsylvania any faster! When I received the death record, I discovered that his residence was listed as Wentz Street, Philadelphia, which is where he resided in the 1910 Census, and also the house I knew my grandfather grew up. He had passed away of prostrate cancer, while still living with his wife and children. So not only did my grandmother’s will solve the mystery of when Michael Logue died, but also laid to rest that he had abandoned his wife and children.

WEEK 17 – 2015: Michael E. McDonald

MichaelMcDonaldFrom humble beginnings of the son of an immigrant coal miner to becoming an attorney and state senator; the story of Michael E. McDonald is certainly an excellent example of someone who prospered in life. And since “prosper” is the theme for this week’s 52 Ancestor challenge, I chose my 2nd cousin, 3xs removed to write about.

Michael was born September 26, 1858 to Thomas and Bridget (Hughes) McDonald in the small town of Hawley, Pennsylvania. His father, Thomas, had come to this country from Ireland around 1816 and settled in Hawley. He met and married Bridget Hughes and started their family. When Michael was about 4 years old, his parents moved the family to Dunmore, PA which is located close to Scranton. His father was employed by the Pennsylvania Coal Company and worked there for many years. Michael, also worked in the mines when he was old enough to do so, as an apprentice moulder.

The Scranton Tribune had credited Thomas McDonald in his obituary, as one of the pioneers of Dunmore. He was very active in the borough activities. This obviously had a positive impact on his son, Michael. In the 1880 Census, Michael, age 21, was still residing with his parents (listed as Thomas McDonnell), 4 sisters, 3 brothers and a cousin. Michael’s occupation was “life insurance agent.” However, an interesting note is that the enumerator for this census was “M.E. McDonnell.”

Michael was educated in the Dunmore and Scranton school system, before continuing his education at the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA. He became interested in law and eventually completed a course in law and was admitted to the bar while working at the law offices of Lemuel Amerman.

From there, Michael became active in the Democratic party and served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1887-1889. He was elected as a State Senator of Pennsylvania and served from 1891-1893.

On November 23, 1892, he married Martha Louise Mellen. They had 3 children: Randall, Maurice and Martha. Two other children had died at a very early age.

“Senator” McDonald continued to be involved in Scranton and Lackawanna poiltical affairs up until the time of his death. He died suddenly on November 28, 1921 at his home at 440 Madison Avenue, Scranton. He is buried in the Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton.


  1. The Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania) at, 29 Nov 1921, page 2. Obituary for Michael E. McDonald.
  2. Year: 1880; Census Place: Dunmore, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1137; Family History Film: 1255137; Page: 136C; Enumeration District: 030; Image: 0665. Record for Thomas McDonnell.
  3. The Scranton Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) at, 2 Feb 1901, page 8. Obituary for Thomas McDonald.


I am currently in the middle of Week 2 of the Genealogy Do-Over by Thomas MacEntee.

This weeks goals are tracking and conducting research.

Tracking Research:

I had been reading about this subject for several weeks before starting Genealogy Do-Over. I knew I was in need of starting to learn how to create a research plan and track my research. I had been in the process of developing a research plan, research log and correspondence log for myself using Evernote for some time. After looking at several samples, I settled on one I think fits what I want. I have a place to state my objective, how I came up with the current hypothesis, and then a place to list links and resources of how I will go about to research my objective. I intend to fill out one of these before starting a new name, or trying to solve a particular question before I start to conduct ANY research.

Once I begin researching, I will then enter all the information into my research log. The same goes for my correspondence log if I am writing to courthouses, churches, libraries, etc.

Conducting Research:

I had a few research goals I established last week. This week, armed with my new templates, I decided to focus on my grandfather, since I basically had the most for him already. Creating the research plan took me a few nights. I went through Ancestry and FamilySearch to see if there were any online collections that I could search that might confirm or give additional information on my grandfather. I also looked at for any other online collections that I could search. I didn’t just start randomly copying and pasting links. I looked at each one to make sure that dates and locations made sense with my objective. That is what took me the longest time

After I was satisfied that I had enough to start searching, I started. First entered in previous documents that I had held into my correspondence log. I had actually had the dates I sent away for the vital record documents that I held, so that’s what I entered into the log. Then, I checked off the box in my research plan, and added a note link from the correspondence log into my research plan. The research I did online, I entered into my research log, which again had a note link to my research plan. I also transcribed information from any document straight into the person notes field in my new, “Re-planted” tree in Family Tree Maker.

Here is the link to my research plan. I’ll see how this works as I continue with new research goals. I’m concerned Evernote’s limit with table rows may be a problem with a challenging problem down the road. But, for now, this is what I’m going with.

Velma (Kelsey) Fish and three of her great grandchildren.

WEEK 16 – 2015: Velma Myrtle (Kelsey) Fish – 1897-1989

A few years ago, my mother-in-law had given my husband a photo of him and his siblings with his great grandmother, “Grandma Fish” My husband fondly remembers her sugar cookies and told me that she was in her 90s when she passed away. So when this week’s 52 Ancestors theme of “Live Long” came up, I immediately thought of her.

Velma Myrtle Kelsey was born on August 24, 1897 in the small, rural community of Springville, Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her parents were Flornty and Harriet “Hattie” (Van Dyke) Kelsey. William McKinley was beginning his first term as President that year. Three days before Velma’s birth, a gentleman named Ransom Olds in Lansing, Michigan was starting his automobile company, Oldsmobile.

Velma’s parents seemed to have bounced around a bit, living between Jefferson and Genoa in Vernon County, and briefly in Browning, Taylor County, Wisconsin.

Tragedy struck on Velma’s 13th birthday in 1910. Her mother, Hattie, died at the age of 28, leaving Velma, her father, and 6 other young siblings.

At some point, she met Roscoe Fish, who was from Sparta, Monroe County, Wisconsin. On March 10, 1919, she and Roscoe took a trip to Winona, Minnesota and were married by Samuel L. Parrish. Witnesses to the ceremony were Roscoe’s sister, Mary and her husband, Alex Paterson.

Roscoe and Velma settled down in Sparta, to start their family. They had 4 sons and 4 daughters. Three of their sons died when they were just infants. They eventually moved to a large home on Pine Street in Sparta, where Roscoe was employed by nearby Fort McCoy.

Roscoe and Velma were married for 29 years until tragedy struck once again. Roscoe suffered an aneurysm at the age of 59, and died on November 11, 1948.

Velma continued living on as a widow for 41 years. Over that time, she saw 32 grandchildren, 52 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren born. She also had to bear another loss, when her daughter, Phyllis, died in 1982.

Velma died March 13, 1989 at the age of 91. She is buried next to her husband, Roscoe in the Angelo Cemetery.

During her lifetime, she lived through the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. She saw the Berlin Wall fall and saw Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush all served as President while she was alive. and although, she experienced so much heartbreak at the death of her mother, her children and her husband, she obviously experienced much joy and wonder to have lived as long as she did.

Genealogy Do-Over – Week 2

I am currently in the middle of Week 2 of the Genealogy Do-Over by Thomas MacEntee.

Just a quick update from last week. For Week 1, we were asked to come up with some base practices. This inspired me to learn more about the Genealogy Proof Standard and citing our sources. I ended up doing some online reading, and listening to YouTube videos on these topics as well. This led me to add and re-write to my base practices as well as purchase two books on the subject to learn more in depth about these topics. The first was Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, by Board for Certification of Genealogists, and Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Both of these books came highly recommended by several people. I am excited to start applying this new found knowledge of these practices to my own research.

Here is what I accomplished for week 2:

1. Self-Interview

I wrote a short biography on myself from birth to present day. I filled it with important dates, such as my birth, years of graduations and my marriage date. I listed key people in my life such as my parents, grandparents, godmother/aunt, uncles, siblings, spouse and my child and step-children. I listed places like my birthplace, where I grew up, school locations and places that I had lived.

I also started my brand new family tree database in my Family Tree Maker for Mac software, and filled in the names and places that I had mentioned in my interview. I filled in dates if I remembered them and crafted a source for my self-interview, based on what I had learned in Evidence Explained.

2. Conducted Family Interviews

I made a list of some people I could interview: my mom, my dad’s sister, my dad’s cousin, and my mom’s sister. I prepared a list of questions for each one of them, and either called or emailed them. I was surprised by the amount of additional information that I received from them. One aunt sent me the copies of my grandparents’ copy of their marriage certificate. Another aunt sent me a copy of my grandmother’s baptism certificate. I have been busy entering in the information from these interviews into FTM, and cited each of these facts with a citation crafted for each interview. I also created citations from the few certificates that I had of my own (my birth certificate, my marriage) and of the ones that I had received from my aunts.

3. Setting Research Goals

Armed with some names, dates and places from my interviews, I am ready to establish some research goals:

• Prove the birth dates of my parents.

• Prove the relationships between my parents and my grandparents

• Prove the birth dates of my grandparents

• Prove the relationships of my grandparents and great grandparents (if I was provided the names in the interviews)

That is actually, a fairly lengthy list. One that should take me lots of time, if I am to go about doing things more thoroughly. I am looking forward to next week, when we will concentrate on tracking and conducting research.

WEEK 15 – 2015: Erastus Sylvester Serfass

Erastus Sylvester Serfass with his 4 children: Arlington (who is standing) and Harold, Ellen and Calvin. (Original photo in possession of James Downs)

Erastus Sylvester Serfass with his 4 children: Arlington (who is standing) and Harold, Ellen and Calvin. (Original photo in possession of James Downs)

How do you spell that” is probably something anyone with the surname of “Serfass” must hear quite often. The name is quite common in the northeastern Pennsylvania counties of Monroe, Carbon, Luzerne, Northampton and Lehigh where everyone is a descendant of one immigrant ancestor, Philip Serfass. However, there are many, many variants among the descendants of Philip: Serfass, Serfas, Searfass, Searfoss, Surface, Servas. And some people even spell it with a “Z”: Zerfass, Zearfass, and Zearfoss.

For this week’s 52 Ancestor post, I have decided to focus on the one member of the Serfass family who probably had to not only spell his surname, but his entire name: my great grandfather, Erastus Sylvester Serfass.

According to baptism records at the Jerusalem Union Church in Trachsville, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Erastus was born on October 1, 1877 to Peter Serfass and Rebecca Kridler. He was baptized on November 11, 1877 at the church with Elias Frantz and his wife, Sara as his godparents.

It is not known what became of his mother, Rebecca. She may have passed away between the time Erastus was born and 1880. The 1880 census shows that Peter Serfass was living with his parents, Aaron and Elizabeth Serfass in Polk Township, Monroe County, with his 2 children: Elle Elizabeth and “Sylvester,” age 3. The box for “Widowed” was checked next to Peter’s name.

By the year 1900, Erastus was living in Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. He was 22 years old and was living at the Exchange Hotel on First Street, Lehighton, where he was also employed as a servant. Around this time, Erastus was already courting a lively young woman named Emma Weaver. Emma was employed as a servant in the Howard Monyer household, which was also located on First Street, Lehighton.

On July 24, 1900 Erastus and Emma applied for a marriage license in Northampton County, PA. On July 26, 1900, Erastus and Emma took a drive to the small village Andreas, located in nearby Schuykill County, and were married by the Rev. Thomas Reber. And yes, it took quite a bit of digging to find that marriage record. Especially since Northampton County is close, but not that close. I wonder how they decided to apply for a marriage license there, and not just get one in Carbon County.

Erastus and Emma had 4 children: Arlington, Calvin, Harold and Ellen. Erastus got a job as a salesman with a local beef plant, Swift and Company where he worked for many years. The couple rented a home on Bankway Street in Lehighton. However, it was said that Emma became disillusioned with her role as a housewife and mother. She left Erastus and their children at some point before 1920. Emma remained in Lehighton, and did see her children from time to time. She and Erastus remained separated for the remainder of their lives, but never filed for divorce.

Erastus lived in Lehighton for many more years. He began seeing a woman named Mrs. Emma Miller, and he eventually moved in with her at her home in nearby Slatington, Lehigh County.

I asked my mother, if she had any memories of Erastus. She did not remember much, since he died while she was still kind of young. She did remember that when he drank coffee, he would pour it into his saucer first. Then he would pour it back into his cup and drink it. She guessed that he did that, so it would cool off faster.

Erastus died on December 26, 1942 in Slatington. His burial in the Lehighton Cemetery caused a bit of controversy. Since his eldest son, Arlington, was the one who was mainly in charge of the funeral arrangements and also bought the plot in the cemetery. His mother, Emma, was still alive at the time, and Arlington knew that he would one day be responsible for her funeral arrangements as well. So he bought the plot so that Emma would be buried next to Erastus, even though the couple had been separated for decades. Apparently, this upset Mrs. Miller, who had been the companion to Erastus for the last few years. Emma died ten years later. She and Erastus are both buried in the plot in the Lehighton Cemetery along with their sons, Arlington and Harold, and a grandson, Arthur.

WEEK 14 – 2015: The Jersey Shore and my favorite photo

Emma Cone_NjShore2

This week’s 52 Ancestors challenge theme was so easy for me: favorite photo. By far, my favorite photo has to be this one of my grandmother, Emma Sarah Cone. That’s her, third from the left. How I received it is one of my favorite genealogy stories as well.

My dad and my grandfather were always into photography. My dad had boxes and stacks of old photographs everywhere. Mainly of objects, landscapes, horses or his favorite subject: me. But, when I asked if he had any old photos of his parents, or perhaps his grandparents, he did not have any. My aunt had some awesome photos that my grandfather had taken of my dad and his siblings and their childhood. But there were none of their grandparents.

Three years ago, I had been reading a collection of stories of genealogists swearing that their ancestors were reaching out beyond the grave to help them with their research. I distinctly remember wishing that my grandmother would help me out in at least finding some more old photos.

Well, Grandmom must have heard me. It was only 3 or 4 days later, I received an email from a woman with the last name of “Cone.” She said she had been looking at at the memorial page for my great grandfather, Patrick Cone. She had noticed that I had added “flowers” on the page, indicating that I was his great-granddaughter. She was curious, because her husband’s father, Albert A. Cone, was also buried in that plot, and she was not familiar with my name. Her husband, it turns out, is my dad’s first cousin. They had not been in contact for decades! It was exciting, because even though my dad had Alzheimer’s, he remembered his cousin very well.

Mrs. Cone and I exchanged several emails over the next few days. Then she said that she and her husband dug out their mother’s old photo albums, THAT THEY STILL HAD! They did not have a scanner, but they started taking photos with their phone and sent me so many treasures! They had my grandparents’ wedding photo! They sent me photos of my great-Grandmother, Margaret Carney. They sent me images old newspaper clippings of my great grandmother’s relatives in Scranton and letters that she received from her sister, Mary Ann.

But this is the photo I instantly fell in love with. First of all, I was surprised that she had such dark hair! I had always remembered her having gray hair. She looked so young and so vibrant in this photo, with not a care in the world. This photo was one of many that looked like they were all taken at what may have been Atlantic City, NJ. My new found cousins did not know who the other people were in the photos. And the hottie that has his arm around my grandmother in the other photos was definitely not my grandfather. Wow! Grandmom DATED?! Who knew! It looked like such a fun day for my grandmother.

EmmaCone_NJshore Emma Cone_NJShore3 Emma Cone_NJShore4

I love these photos! I still feel that this was a big gift from my grandmother, even though she had been gone for over 30 years.

So Grandmom, if you’re still listening… I really would like to find out where in Ireland your father was born. ;-)

WEEK 1: Entering the “Genealogy Do-Over” zone

I have been researching my family tree for almost 30 years. A typewritten family history by one of my grandmother’s cousins was the initial spark when I was about 10 years old. It wasn’t until my grandfather’s death and hearing the names of his parents for the first time, that I had decided to take the plunge into genealogy. Back then, I lurked on genealogy forums on Prodigy and CompuServe, trying to learn HOW you even started to find out more about your ancestors. I remember my first visit to a local Family History Library, feeling nervous and like a complete n00b. And I remember the thrill of finding my first record on microfilm: the marriage record of my great grandparents in Philadelphia.

I have been feeling that my research tactics have been a little flat for the past year or so. I felt like I was researching without any structure. Often I’d come home from work, look at my family tree look at one ancestor, decide 5 minutes later I wasn’t getting anywhere, then choose and entirely different ancestor and repeat the same process, until I thought I had a piece of information I didn’t have before. And it seemed I would look over and over again at the same things. I had been aware of research plans, but never actually put one in motion.

I had only heard about Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over last weekend while attending the Wisconsin Genealogical Society’s Gene-A-Rama, held in Madison, WI. I decided that this might be the perfect forum to revitalize my tactics. The timing also worked out since Cycle 2 was just beginning this weekend.

So, I will blog about my experience here, so it will help me think things through. Also, it’s better than doing a big, long post on Facebook.

Setting Previous Research Aside

Oh wow, this will be a big one for me. But, also necessary. I have two trees: my family and my husband’s family. I am just going to focus on my family tree this time around, since that is the one I spend the most time on and have the most information. So I will be doing the following steps:

  • Backing up my Family Tree Maker tree and putting it aside. It’s somewhat of a mess anyway, since it had started in PAF years decades ago, then transferred to another software program and now FTM. Some of my citations that I entered in PAF, never transferred well. So, some citations were lost, or I have duplicates.
  • Ancestry Tree. I will keep this one up for now, in case of any DNA connections or other potential cousin connections. I will not refer to it during this time and I will not add to it. I may end up deleting this one and replacing it with my better organized FTM tree later on. I haven’t decided yet. I had used the tree linking feature between my FTM tree and Ancestry, but more than once the trees became unlinked somehow, and caused several issues. I do intend to NOT link the trees anymore.
  • Digital files. I had just did a re-organization of these within the past year. However, I will be doing a back-up of these and moving them onto the server space my husband had set up for me.
  • Binders. I had just reorganized most of these last year. But, I did not get through all of them. So for now, the re-organized binders will sit on the shelves. I have a big pile of unorganized documents, so this weekend I will sort through those and decide what to keep and what to toss. What I keep will go in a box until we reach the later steps in the do-over.

Preparing to Research

I have much to do in this step!

  • Research plans. I have never used these, and I know that I need to! No more starting research without starting one of these first. I had learned more about these in a presentation at Gene-A-Rama. So, I will be checking out some examples and templates online this week, and building a template for myself in Evernote.
  • Research logs and correspondence logs. Again, tools that I had never used. Except I did start off keeping track of correspondence when I started, but slacked off. I still have some of my old, handwritten correspondence logs. I will create some in Evernote and perhaps start transferring these older logs into this format as practice.
  • Resource Checklists. I will be putting together a checklist of records I should look for as well as links to good resources to start checking first, so that it’s handy when I fill out my research plan.
  • Timelines. My FTM actually creates these. I need to start looking at these more closely for gaps in my research.
  • Historical and Genealogical societies. I have been greatly underutilizing these! It is my goal to start looking at what societies and archives in in my area of research, see what holdings they have and then decide on some and get a membership, so that I can benefit even more from their holding.

Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

  1. Track and cite EVERYTHING. Even if I do not find information in a particular roll of microfilm, I still need to record that it was searched, so I do not re-order it later. Think of tracking research as notes to yourself in the future. WHY did I look at this file. WHO was I looking for?
  2. Establish a question first. Before I dive into research and start attaching files to a digital tree, THINK about what I’m specifically looking for and what sources are out there that will help me answer my question and prove the answer.
  3. Only add people to my tree ONLY after I have researched them. This is particularly important on my digital tree.
  4. Become more familiar with the Genealogical Proof Standard. I plan to watch some youtube videos on the topic. I will also purchase
  5. Interact more with other genealogists. Even if they are not potential cousins! I feel that this is a big step that I have been lacking. They may know about resources that I do not know, or can help brainstorm a brick wall with fresh eyes. Find local events I can go to to network and learn more. Start looking for societies to join.

WEEK 13 – 2015: Sister Mary Bertrand Walton – so different from me

I am an art director/graphic designer. Besides art, my favorite classes in school were in English, literature and History. But I never had any love for Mathematics. I was convinced that if I had a career in art, that I would never need to use anything that I was learning in my Algebra class. So now when I find myself having to design a three-dimensional display for stores I am completely miserable and I whine about having to use Math until the project is done.

This week, 52 Ancestors challenge was to write about someone “different“. I have been thrilled to find so many artists of some shape and form in my family tree. However, this 2nd cousin 3 times removed, stuck out as being completely different from me, not because she was a nun, but she was also a highly respected mathematician. Her name was Sister Mary Bertrand Walton.

A side note: I was first “introduced” to Sister Mary Bertrand by another researcher/distant cousin about 2 years ago. He actually had letters from her that talked about various relatives and he was trying to find out who the people were that she had mentioned. We connected because my great grandmother and her sister, were among some of the people he was seeking. He had already known much about Sister Bertrand and shared this information with me. 

She was born as Alice M. Walton, on October 4, 1865 in Hawley, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Michael and Catherine (Caveney) Walton. She became a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary around 1892-1895 and took the name Sister Mary Bertrand. Three of her sisters also entered the convent. Jane Walton became Sister Mary Jerome. Elizabeth became Sister Mary Gonzaga and Catherine also was known as Sister Mary Gonzaga.

Sister Bertrand could be found as a teacher in the 1910 census at St. Cecelia’s Academy, Scranton. In 1915, Marywood College in Scranton was founded and Sister Bertrand joined the faculty as a Professor of Mathematics. She was listed as a member of the American Mathematical Society in 1928.

There is also a story that Sister Bertrand was consulted time to time, by the members of the Manhattan Project, a secret group formed during World War II to build the atomic bomb. It was also said that if Sister Bertrand was a man, that she probably would have been a member of the group. However, I do not have any documentation that supports this. I do not know if I ever would find that out, since the project and the group members have been shrouded in secrecy for years.

Sister Bertrand died on November 11, 1950. She is buried in the Cathedral Cemetery, Scranton with many of her other family members.