October 31, 2013

Halloween Edition: A Turkey of a Will

Here’s a little treat for you trick-or-treaters out there in genealogy cyberland. Even the editor of the paper this article ran in—the October 18, 1894 London Times, published in London, Ohio—recognized what a fun piece he had on his hands.

Without further ado, I give you:

Queer Will
       Jonas Good, a resident of Ross county, Ohio, has had his will probated in Chillicothe. The will is a very queer document and was written by himself and is as follows:
       August 31, 1894, last request and testament of Jonas Good: At my request I have about three or four acres of corn on the uplands of L. B. James, and it is my request for Moses Good, my nephew, to take it in his care and see to it until said corn be ready to cut up, and also want the said Moses Good to sell the said corn and pay to Frank Vincent $5 of the corn money, and the balance of the money that is left after paying Vincent is to be equally divided between Polly Good and Leroy Good, her grandson, and the balance of my goods and chattels also to be in charge of Moses Good, except my garden stuff and turkeys, which I want my niece, Eliza Carroll, to take in charge; to gather the garden stuff and see to the turkeys.

Isn’t that a hoot? And the thing is, as odd as Jonas’ requests are, this is actually a great will, because it names people and states their relationships to each other. If only some of my ancestors had thought to do that…

I hope Moses took care of that corn and Emily saw to the turkeys, so old Jonas won’t be tempted to play any ghostly tricks tonight. Happy Halloween!

Source: “Queer Will,” The London Times (London, Ohio), 18 October 1894, p. 1, col. 3.

October 21, 2013

And Now We Are Three!

Three years ago, I ventured out into the wide, wide world of cyberspace and posted my first welcome message here at A Sense of Family. It’s been a great three years, and I want to take a moment to reflect and thank everyone who reads and subscribes to this blog for making it so rewarding.

In looking back, I’m struck by three things: how fast time goes, how many more resources for genealogy are online today, and how many wonderful people I’ve come to know through blogging. Since I haven’t figured out a way to slow the speeding days, weeks, and months down, I’ll stick to talking about the other two things here.

In the fall of 2010, most of my searches on the FamilySearch website gave results from the Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, and IGI. I couldn’t have imagined the scope of databases under the FamilySearch umbrella today, or the ease of having so many actual record images at my fingertips 24/7. And that’s just one website. Think of all the expansions at Ancestry and Find My Past in three years’ time. And the rise of new companies that serve the genealogical community—Mocavo, for instance. Not to mention the proliferation of smartphone and tablet apps like BillionGraves (I could barely text on my 2010 cell phone). It seems like everyone—from the federal government to state archives to county offices to local genealogical societies—is making an effort to improve access to historical records online. And the ways to learn about genealogy have exploded, too (think webinars and study groups). I know there are some challenges, such as threats to the Social Security Death Index, but the progress is truly phenomenal when you stop to think about it.

Reading blogs is one way I try to keep up with all that change. Bloggers are generous with sharing information and tips. It helps to hear about other people’s experiences as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of 21st century family history research. Every blog has a voice, and behind that voice is a person. In my experience, the people who write genealogy blogs tend to be passionate, helpful, smart, involved, and genuinely nice people. After reading someone’s posts for a period of months or years, you come to know them a little bit, so when you meet for the first time, there’s a quick bond. You know just what to talk about. I’ve met many fellow bloggers at genealogy conferences and institutes who have become good friends, and I treasure those friendships. There are many others I hope to meet someday.

Mostly, I want to say thank you, readers, for taking precious time out of your days to read my posts. Thanks especially to those who reach out to leave a comment here or contact me by email. It makes my day to know I’ve helped or touched someone. It’s also a thrill to hear from a distantly-related cousin who’s just discovered my blog. Connecting with people regardless of the boundaries of time and space is what it’s all about, after all. That’s the magic that keeps me sharing those stories, reviewing those resources, and talking about those tips.

So please join me in raising a toast to being three!

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October 13, 2013

Ballenger Ancestors: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Randy Seaver, author of Genea-Musings, always comes up with a fun challenge each weekend. This time he prompted me to explore a genealogical numbering system I’ve never used before. Here’s his “mission”:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:

1)  Do you know what a "Henry Number" is?  It is a descendant numbering system from a specific person. The Wikipedia article for Genealogical Numbering Systems describes it as:

"The Henry System is a descending system created by Reginald Buchanan Henry for a genealogy of the families of the presidents of the United States that he wrote in 1935.[3] It can be organized either by generation or not. The system begins with 1. The oldest child becomes 11, the next child is 12, and so on. The oldest child of 11 is 111, the next 112, and so on. The system allows one to derive an ancestor's relationship based on their number. For example, 621 is the first child of 62, who is the second child of 6, who is the sixth child of his parents.  In the Henry System, when there are more than nine children, X is used for the 10th child, A is used for the 11th child, B is used for the 12th child, and so on. In the Modified Henry System, when there are more than nine children, numbers greater than nine are placed in parentheses."

2)  Go to your first known ancestor with your birth surname and calculate your Henry Number from that person.  Show each generation of your line of ancestors with your birth surname with their Henry numbers.

3)  How did you calculate the Henry numbers?  What do these numbers tell you?

4)  Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

My first known ancestor with my birth surname, Ballenger, is Charles Ballenger, born 29 March 1815, possibly in Fairfax County, Virginia. He lived most of his adult life in Athens County, Ohio, then moved to Delaware County, where he died 19 October 1891. According to the Henry system that Randy explained, Charles is ancestor number 1.

Here is my Ballenger line with their Henry numbers:
1             Charles Ballenger (1815-1891)
18           James Madison Ballenger (1855-1913)
181          Charles Cleveland Ballenger (1882-1953)
1813        Lloyd Russell Ballenger (1911-2002)
18132      Edward Ballenger (living)
181321    Shelley Ballenger Bishop (living)

Figuring out the Henry numbers was relatively easy, because I already have a complete list of the children in each generation. I simply went to my family database in Reunion for Mac, my software of choice, and found the birth order for each of my direct ancestors (all males, since this is my birth surname). I also consulted a previous blog post, Surname Saturday: Ballenger Family, which gives the names of everyone in the families. I had to make one decision: whether or not to count an unnamed infant who lived only four hours (she was an older sister of Lloyd Ballenger, my grandfather). I did count her, because she was a very real baby to her parents, which made Lloyd their third-born child.

The most widely accepted genealogical numbering systems today are the Register System, developed in 1870 and used by the New England Historic and Genealogical Register, and the NGSQ System, developed in 1912 by the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. The NGSQ System is sometimes called the Modified Register System. A short book published by the National Genealogical Society called Numbering Your Genealogy provides a good overview of both of these systems, and it also briefly describes the Henry System.

While I don’t think I’ll ever use the Henry System in my own research or writing, it was fun to experiment with it. I’ve read about it before, but there’s nothing like a good hands-on exercise to help me understand it. Isn’t that true of a lot of things?


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