July 26, 2012

And the GRIP Goes On...

It’s been a jam-packed couple of days here at GRIP. Every hour brings new information, discoveries, and connections. I know I’m not alone when I admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the material I’m learning and trying my best to absorb. Fortunately, it’s a supportive environment, and we’re all in good company. Great company, actually. Before I collapse, I’ll try to share a few highlights from Day 2 and Day 3 in Advanced Research Methods.

Tom Jones has a way of making even the most academic subjects seem riveting, and Documentation was no exception. After clarifying that a footnote is not the same thing as a citation, he demonstrated how to craft a footnote containing multiple citations. It makes perfect sense when he explains it. How he can get a roomful of genealogists laughing over footnote placement either shows his extreme good humor or our extreme geekiness, or both.

Claire Bettag had us on the edge of our seats, listening and watching and writing and thinking just as fast as we could through three amazing presentations. I’ll tell you, she knows the National Archives inside and out, and makes no bones about the amazing treasures to be found there—if you know how to find them. She’s a dynamo of information. We learned that to find the free, downloadable Descriptive Pamphlets (DPs) that will help us locate items of interest at NARA, we should click on “Order Online,” then “Buy Reproductions and Microfilm,” and finally “View Publication Details.” Nowhere are the words Descriptive Pamphlets mentioned (yes, that’s our tax dollars at work).

Her discussion on Government Documents took us behind the scenes to see how congressional records since the first U.S. Congress in 1789 have been preserved and organized—and how they might help us find rich information about individual ancestors. A homework assignment gave us the chance to follow a bill granting compensation to an individual through the various legislative processes (I’m happy to report I tracked it all the way through).

Claire Bettag and Elissa Scalise Powell
In her lecture on Federal Land Records, we learned that some of the cash entry files on the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office website are potential genealogical goldmines. Post-1840 cash files might actually be Preemptions, and 1862 and later cash files may be Homesteads, both of which are usually loaded with personal and family information. But there’s no way to tell that from the BLM website, so you just have to order the file and keep your fingers crossed.

Rick Sayre led us through Military and Pension Record Strategies with a discussion of resources and search techniques. He stressed we need to understand America’s wars, the records they generated, and the laws governing military benefits in order to study our veterans and their families. I appreciated his explanation and case study of how to process a Civil War pension file. Now to apply that to the three pension files I have waiting at home.

He also talked to us about Rural and Urban Map Strategies. This is an area where the Library of Congress Maps and Geography web pages really shine. It’s amazing to see the amount of detail some of these maps offer. Of course, that’s only one of many helpful websites for obtaining historical maps.

Tom Jones reclaimed the podium to discuss Census and Name-List Strategies. He pointed out that it was more common for families to be listed twice than to not be listed at all in a census. If a family isn’t found in an index, that usually indicates we need to broaden our search, or browse the census page by page—a good strategy in any case.

Finally, his Tax-Roll Strategies left us all fantasizing about the breakthroughs we might make if we successfully correlate and compare the tax lists from every year, without skipping the one that might reveal a key relationship. And did you know that Darby is the Irish name for Jeremiah?

Whew! I’m beat. If you’d like to read more about what our class has been up to, I highly recommend the posts from some of my talented classmates:
Chris Staats at Staat’s Place
Becky Wiseman at Kinexxions
Cathi Becker Wiest Desmarais at Stone House Historical Research

But first, wish me luck with my homework!

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July 24, 2012

GRIP Announces 2013 Course Schedule

The first day of GRIP has come and gone, and what a day it was. Those of us in Tom Jones’ Advanced Research Methods class had a stimulating day discussing the nuances of sources, information, and evidence—terms that may seem simple on the surface, but hold a realm of complexities within. I was introduced to an entirely new (to me) distinction between sources that are independent vs. related. We also discussed the characteristics of advanced genealogists, the questions to consider in analyzing sources and information, and how to develop a good research plan. Wow.

Even though we didn’t get halfway through the day’s planned material, I think we all walked away with more than enough to keep us thinking for a long, long time. But wait—we get to wake up and do it again tomorrow!

In the meantime, I’ll share with you the schedule for next year’s Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, which was released today. GRIP 2013 will be held July 22-26 at La Roche College. Six courses will be offered:
  • Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper, with Paula Stuart-Warren
  • Skills for Proof, with Tom Jones
  • Bridging the 1780-1840 Gap: From New England to the Midwest, with D. Joshua Taylor
  • Military Records: From Cradle to Grave, with Craig Scott
  • Your Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories: Writing a Quality Narrative, with John Colletta
  • Advanced Research Tools: Land Records, with Rick and Pam Sayre

Sounds like a great line-up, doesn’t it? It's going to be a hard choice, I can tell already. Good thing I have a few months to make up my mind. It will probably take that long to absorb everything I’m learning this week, anyway!

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July 23, 2012

Inaugural Day at GRIP

The campus of La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was buzzing with activity yesterday as genealogists from across the country arrived for the opening day of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). After greeting friends in the parking lot, I received my dorm room assignment, name tag, course binder, and GRIP polo shirt in short order. The dorm room itself was basic but surprising spacious, with a private bathroom, a mini-fridge, and microwave. We even got chocolates on our pillows. This will be home base for the next five days.

La Roche is a small campus, and our classrooms and cafeteria are all in one big building next to the dorm. I have a feeling I’ll really appreciate that as the week goes on, especially in the mornings. Dinner brought everyone together, with lively conversation all around. I enjoyed talking with Becky Wiseman of Kinexxions, and was delighted to meet Denise Levenick, aka The Family Curator.

Denise Levenick and Becky Wiseman
After dinner, directors Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, and Deborah Litchner Deal welcomed us all to the first session of GRIP. They announced that plans are already in place for six courses for July 2013 (to be announced later), and handed out door prizes to a few lucky attendees. Then we had an informal gathering of ProGen Study Group members. We have a large group here, with members ranging from ProGen 1 to 16 (I’m an alumnus of ProGen 5).

GRIP Directors Deborah Deal and Elissa Scalise Powell
Since we didn’t have to worry about homework just yet, Malissa Ruffner of Family Epic and I ran out to do a little shopping at Target to outfit our dorm rooms in style. Mine now sports a cute little rug, a cushy bathmat, and a full fridge. We were a little disappointed not to find any posters for the walls. After all, it’s not every day we get to go back to college!

All four courses begin at 8:30 am today. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very busy—and fun—week of learning and camaraderie. I can’t think of any place I’d rather be.

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Gearing Up for GRIP

July 19, 2012

Moses L. Smith's Toy Book: Treasure Chest Thursday

Sometimes I wonder which of the things that we have will become the heirlooms of tomorrow. I’m not talking about the things we try to preserve, like photographs, scrapbooks, and collectibles. I mean the everyday objects that we use and enjoy without thinking too much about them. What will survive to make future generations wonder about us?

I bet Moses Levant Smith never expected his little toy book to outlive him by 107 years.

And yet I’ve become the latest in a long string of custodians of Moses’ book. On a recent visit, my father-in-law pulled a small envelope from his pocket with great relish, and produced a little object he had found mixed in with a shoebox full of office-type odds and ends from his last move. He knew I’d be delighted with it, and he was right.

The Life of Our Savior measures about 3 inches high by 1¾ inches wide, and weighs no more a bookmark. It was written and published by S. Babcock in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1840. Though the paper has mellowed with age, the text and illustrations remain clear. In seven tiny pages, it summarizes the life of Jesus in story form. On the back is an ad for the publisher: “Toy Books, of Every Variety and Description, Constantly for sale by S. Babcock. New Series of all the Different Sizes Just Published.”

But what really caught my eye was the inscription inside the front cover. In a lovely script hand is written:
Moses L. Smith
Presented by his Cousin
George P. Sanborn

Now that’s an inscription sure to make a family historian’s heart swoon.

Moses Levant Smith was born in January 1835 in Alabama, according to family and census records.(1) He would have been five years old when this book was published. By then his father, Dr. Joseph Haven Smith, had died. His mother, Annah Carrington Ives Smith, had taken the children back to Loudonville, Ohio, to live among their relatives.(2) He went by his middle name, Levant, in most of the records I’ve found him in. The Sanborn, Smith, and Ives families had long histories in New Hampshire and Connecticut.

George P. Sanborn was the son of Joseph B. Sanborn and Mary Jane Smith Sanborn. The gift of this little book is especially poignant because George only lived to the age of eleven.(3)

When you think about how much children love miniature things—dollhouses, toy figures, little farm and zoo animals—it’s not hard to imagine that Moses Levant treasured his tiny book. The fact that it survives in good condition to this day, through a chain of indirect descendants and countless moves to various cities and states, just astounds me.

It makes me wonder what little things of mine might make some future family historian smile. What helps an object like this to be kept and handed down, instead of being thrown out or given away? What creates an heirloom?

(1) 1860 U.S. census, Russell Township, Geauga County, Ohio, population schedule, p. 13, dwelling 111, family 94, L. M. Smith; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 1 March 2012), citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 967.
(2) Hattie (Boynton) Whiting, Ives-Smith Family History, ca. November 1949; Crites Family Papers, compiled by Harold R. Crites, currently in possession of Shelley Bishop. The family history does not provide source citations.
(3) Joseph B. Sanborn, Mary Jane Smith, and George P. Sanborn tombstone, Loudonville Cemetery, Loudonville, Ashland County, Ohio; photographed by Shelley Bishop, June 2012.

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Clarissa Smith Sanborn of Loudonville: Sunday’s Obituary

July 15, 2012

Gearing Up for GRIP

A week from today, I’ll be venturing onto the campus of La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a week of learning at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). I’ll be part of the Advanced Research Methods class taught by Tom Jones, with associate instructors Claire Bettag and Rick Sayre. Am I excited? Absolutely! Am I nervous? You bet.

Attending GRIP will give me the opportunity to learn from some of the masters of the genealogical world in a college class setting. That’s just awesome. Still, I can’t help but wonder if my brain will be able to wrap itself around all the concepts and strategies and methodology that will be crammed into that five days. High-level genealogy morning, noon, and night. I want to soak it all in, absorb it like a sponge, so that I can use it when faced with my own research challenges. I think I’m up to the task, but along with that dash of confidence comes a touch of apprehension. Come to think of it, it’s the same feeling I had when starting college itself.

Here’s a description of one of the course modules:
“Differences between genealogical information and evidence; types of sources and evidence, with emphasis on circumstantial, indirect, and negative evidence; getting evidence from sources, especially below the surface level; legal, social, and economic contexts and the evidence they provide; understanding how a records’ purposes and the parties’ motivations provide genealogical evidence; weighing evidence; determining accuracy; determining provenance and authorship; relation of evidence to the Genealogical Proof Standard; using evidence to determine kinship and advance genealogy.”

And that’s just in the first hour and fifteen minutes.

So I’m doing my best to get ready. I’ve been studying the articles that Dr. Jones sent us to prepare for the course, and will keep on studying them this week. Someone suggested that I review his other articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, which I thought was a good idea, so I want to read some of those, too. I plan to do all the optional homework exercises he gives us, because I know I learn more—and remember more—by trying to apply the material presented in class. Last but not least, I’m starting to gather the things I want to take with me to Pittsburgh.

One thing I’m really looking forward to is being in the company of other people who are just as eager to learn and discuss genealogy as I am. I know several of my classmates already, and I think it’s going to be a great group. When you add in the students from the other three courses being offered, as well as their terrific instructors--whose courses I would love to take, too--GRIP promises to be a dynamic environment all around.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a bit of reading to do…

July 4, 2012

A Town Called Freedom

For the Fourth of July, Geni.com has created an Independence Day info-graphic showing, among other things, patriotic place names in the United States. Towns by the name of Liberty, Freedom, Independence, Eagle, and America dot our country. One they overlooked, though, was Freedom, Ohio. Now Freedom, which is part of Freedom Township in Portage County, Ohio, never was and never will be a bustling metropolis. But it has a proud history. Four generations of my husband’s family lived and are buried there.

As part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, the tiny town of Freedom was modeled after a New England town and settled, at least in the beginning, by New Englanders. My husband’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Eli Barnum, and his wife, Jerusha Hart Barnum, were early members of the Congregational church in Freedom. They were recommended to the frontier church by a letter written on July 10, 1837, by Sheffield Congregational Church in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. (1) The First Congregational Church of Freedom continues to serve the community today.

First Congregational Church of Freedom, Ohio

The History of Portage County, Ohio, by Robert C. Brown and J. E. Norris, which is available on Google Books, contains this amusing little anecdote about how the township, and thus the town, of Freedom got its name:

"The name 'Freedom' is supposed to have been suggested by Mrs. Paine, to whom the matter was referred in honor of that lady having been the first female to enter the township. It is said that she first suggested 'Liberty,' but as that name was too common, it was changed. The usual version is that she was a great lover of liberty, and the name naturally came up, but an old settler says that she suggested the title in consequence of quite a number of the inhabitants having left sundry little debts when they came out.” (2)

I don’t know if Eli left any sundry debts behind in Sheffield, but I do know he bought and cleared land in Freedom Township, some of which he then sold to his son-in-law, Fitch Bishop. Fitch’s children were born on the family’s farm, and some of his grandchildren were born in Freedom as well. The land today looks little changed from what it probably looked like then.

Well-tended Freedom West Cemetery is the final resting place of many of the town’s pioneers, including Eli and Fitch. You can see pictures of their tombstones and read a little bit more about them in these posts:

Freedom Cemetery Freedom Ohio
Freedom West Cemetery, Freedom, Ohio 
Fitch’s wife, Sarah Ann Barnum Bishop, was buried in Freedom as well, according to her obituary, and most likely rests beside her husband, although she has no marker. I’ve written about the other members of the Bishop family buried in Freedom West Cemetery:

Freedom, Ohio, may be just a tiny town, little more than a crossroads in the Midwest countryside. But our ancestors left everything they knew behind to settle in small towns like these all over America. In time, those new towns became home. And after all, what could be more American than Freedom on the Fourth of July?

(1) “Congregational Church records, Sheffield, Massachusetts, 1791-1890” (typescript: Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1901), p. 86, recommendation of Eli Barnum to church in Freedom, Ohio (10 July 1837); FHL microfilm 234572, item 2.

(2) Robert C. Brown and J. E. Norris, History of Portage County, Ohio (Chicago, Illinois: Warner, Beers & Co., 1885), p. 453.

July 1, 2012

Help Index 5 Million Names from the 1940 U.S. Census on July 2nd

In the three months since the 1940 U.S. Census was released, volunteers have been busy scouring batch after batch for the information that will ultimately create a free index to World War II America. And amazing strides have been made. But there’s still a ways to go, and in the patriotic spirit of the week in which we celebrate America’s independence, FamilySearch has issued a challenge for us all to rise to.

They’ve set a goal of indexing “5 Million Names” on July 2nd, and you can help!

If you’ve already done some indexing, you know how fun and rewarding it can be. It actually becomes addictive after awhile. Now I admit I’ve slacked off after my initial efforts—I didn’t index a single batch in June, sorry to say. So this challenge is the perfect time for me to get going again. I want to be able to see FamilySearch meet its goal and know I helped a little bit. Besides that, it’s just fun to be part of a historic event in the making.

And if you haven’t tried indexing yet, well, there’s no time like the present. It’s easy, and doesn’t take much time once you get the hang of it. Just go to the1940census.com and click on the button that says “Get Started.” They’ll give you full step-by-step instructions (there’s only three) and a few sample records to try. Then you can pick the state you’d like to index and download your first batch. You don’t have to have any special skills, and there’s nothing intimidating about it.

When I first started indexing, I made some rookie mistakes over and over. For example, I thought “Same Place” and “Same House” were interchangeable terms (they aren’t). A few clarifications helped me a lot. The best summary I’ve seen of tips and clarifications for better results is FamilySearch Indexing the 1940 Census—How to Get it Right! by Kimberly Powell on About.com Genealogy. The few minutes it takes to read her article can save you time, raise your accuracy, and help you solve any problems you might encounter.

If you’d like to see the progress made on the 1940 Census Community Project so far, Leland Meitzler has the latest count here. He also has an update on how Ancestry.com is coming along with its indexing efforts (they have Ohio done now!).

Note that the definition of “July 2” is based on Greenwich Mean Time (London time). So in the U.S., for your batches to count for that day, you can actually start contributing them on Sunday, July 1st at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, 6 p.m. Mountain Time, 7 p.m. Central Time, and 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Then figure 24 hours from your time, and you have the boundaries for the challenge.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get indexing, have some fun, and set a new record! I wonder if there’s a category for “Most Names Indexed in a Day” in the Guinness Book of World Records?

UPDATE, JULY 4, 2012: We did it! A big thanks to everyone who indexed batches of the 1940 U.S. census on July 2nd as part of the Five Million Names challenge. FamilySearch has reported that we blew past that goal, indexing over 7 million records in 24 hours. And if you add in the efforts of arbitrators, who processed over 3 million records, the final tally was (drum roll, please) 10,340,879 records added! How awesome is that?

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