Upcoming Series – Family History Through the Alphabet

I have a confession…I have set a few blogging goals and challenges for myself over the past 6 months, and I have to confess that I have not succeeded on those goals as much as I wanted to.  There are all sorts of

‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ Challenge

reasons…summer break for my kids, preparing for my own wedding in November, and the list goes on.  But the reality is that the goals I was setting for myself just weren’t holding my attention.  This past week, I read a post at My Heritage Happens by Cheryl Palmer and it hit with me…I wasn’t achieving those blogging goals because they just didn’t match the reasons that I started my blog.  When I started this blog, my intention was to share my genealogy finds, my family history and maybe connect with some long lost relatives along the way.  As I got rolling, I became caught up in the world of geneablogging.  I was following daily prompts (and I was nearly obsessed with having a post to publish every single day of the week), I was commenting on other topics in the genealogy world, and if I am honest with myself, I was writing the blog to try to gain an audience and not for myself.  Cheryl’s blog post about her reasons for considering quitting hit home.  I realized that it’s time to get back to writing this blog for me and my family as much as for others who may or may not stumble on it.

Prior to this revelation, I had been planning to take on the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge that was created over at Gould Genealogy.  My intent was to make the series educational in nature, but after my revelation, I have decided to use the challenge as a personal prompt to get back to my basic genealogy research and improve my writing skills.  My “intro” for the series is now…..

For 26 posts I will be doing a personal family history journey through the alphabet, one letter at a time.  My personal challenge for this series is that I am going to try to match as many of the letters as I can to first names of my ancestors and research that individual’s life to write a full narrative of their life.  For those letters that I can’t match to an ancestor, the post will be either a) about a artifact or a location where an ancestor lived, or b) educational in nature.  Although the challenge is complete, Alona, the host, is encouraging others to participate anyway.  Additional information on the challenge, can be found at Take the ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ Challenge

I can’t promise that these posts are going to come out one a week, or even one a month, simply because for several of the names that I am going to use, I still have quite a bit of additional research to do.  What I can promise my readers is that when I put up one of the posts, you will be treated to a narrative of my ancestor’s life that is written with all of the facts that I could find on them and all of the historical context that I can muster.  My hope is to bring my readers and myself into the lives of my ancestors.

Stay Tuned……

Workday Wednesday – Postal Service Follow Up

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post regarding my great grandfather and his father both working for the postal service.  Recently, I found a picture of my great grandfather from the August 8, 1966 edition of The Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

The Daily Chief-Union, Upper Sandusky, Ohio
8 Aug 1966

According to the caption, this picture was taken “about 30 years” earlier, though it would actually have to have been at least 31 years earlier in 1935 since my great grandfather (pictured in the front row, 3rd from the left) died on 04 June 1935 about a month after retiring from the Postal Service.

Military Monday – Letters from the front

Over this past weekend, I was spending a little time going through things that I had brought back from my trip up to Dad’s house back in June, and made a fun discovery that has begun to lead me on a genealogical
mystery chase.

Among all of the letters that I scanned while I was at Dad’s were about twelve that were dated back to World War II.  At the time, I thought that all of these letters were from my mother’s uncles.  What I discovered this weekend was that seven of those letters were from someone outside the family.  My mistake was that with the tiny handwriting on the return address, I mistook the last name for Hill.  When I started to look at the scans this weekend, I realized that the last name was actually Wells.  As I read the letters themselves, it became obvious that this soldier definitely wasn’t a family member.

But who was Bob Wells?

The letters held only a few clues.  Based on the content of the letters I can tell:
1) Bob Wells had worked with my grandfather on the Pennsylvania Railroad before the War.
2) He lived in or near Ft. Wayne, Indiana (my grandmother mentions a “Mrs. Wells” stopping by the house)
3) He served in the 710th Tank Battalion in the Pacific theater
4) He saw action in the battle on Peleliu

With those clues, finding Bob Wells should be somewhat easy for a genealogist, right?  Well………unfortunately at this point, I don’t have my accounts with Ancestry or Fold3 active so the only resources I have are those free ones that we all use, and they weren’t providing much help.

I posted a request for help to an Indiana Research group that I am a member of on Facebook, and a wonderful fellow genealogist from Indianapolis has jumped on the case with me.  With Marilyn’s help, I now have a possible obituary for Robert Wells from Leo, Indiana.  All of the details in his obituary fit my clues so far.

I have talked with my brother and sisters and we have decided that without a doubt, these letters belong in the hands of Bob Wells’ children or grandchildren if we can find them.

I have to be honest, I am hoping to find Bob Wells’ family for some selfish reasons too.  Yes, I want to get these letters into their hands because he writes about his own family, how he is feeling about the war, and they are definitely something that I think his family would want to see.  But I also want to know more about the relationship between Mr. Wells and my grandfather.  Were they close friends?  Were they just co-workers?  Was my grandfather perhaps his mentor (being about 20 years older than him)?  Is Bob Wells the mystery man in a picture that we have of my grandfather standing beside one of the locomotives he was an engineer on for the Pennsylvania Railroad?

I wish I could say that I will have a follow up to this post soon, but all I can promise at this point is that I will post the resolution of the mystery when it happens, and if Mr. Wells’ family gives permission, I will add some content from the letters to my blog.

Stay tuned….

Sorting Saturday – My fractured love affair

I really didn’t mean for it to happen this way.  My relationship with E was so new and so intense that I really never thought that it would end up with another being brought into it, but here we are…all three of us.  I guess it was meant to happen because O just filled gaps in my world that E never could.

I may be delusional, but I think I’ve found a way for all three of us to live in harmony…
Okay, so that description was probably just a little over the top considering that I’m talking about software that I use. Hopefully my description got your attention and conveyed the excitement that I felt when I finally found my perfect combination of genealogy note-taking/research log/genealogy assistant programs.  (And for the record, my entire family thinks that I’m just a little odd after writing that.) E and O in this case are Evernote and OneNote, two of the most popular note-taking/research organizing programs out there right now.

To translate that little romance drama earlier, I started out using Evernote for my genealogy research because when I first found Evernote, I absolutely fell in love with the program.  I use Evernote for nearly all aspects of my daily life – my professional career, my hobbies, my general reminders and organizing.  However, for my genealogy research, Evernote never quite felt right.  Something just didn’t fit with how I wanted to organize my notes and research and what Evernote would seem to let me do.

Enter OneNote….

After doing quite a bit of research by reading blog posts of others, looking at templates and samples, and then doing some experimenting, I have finally hit on an organizational setup in OneNote that feels right and that fits how I organize my research.

Before I show you my final product, I need to give credit where credit is due.  During the course of my research, I came upon a blog post from Caroline Pointer over at 4yourfamilystory.com that was pretty much the linchpin for my set up.  I took one of the templates that Caroline provided and modified it in a few different ways to fit what I was looking for.  I can’t say thank you enough to Caroline for sharing her templates because the moment I saw them, the vision of what I wanted out of OneNote became crystal clear.

Now on to my setup…

My setup in OneNote involves creating a notebook for each surname that I am researching. Within that notebook, each individual that I’m researching will have their own section.  Inside each of the person sections, I have pages created for various types of research notes and phases of research.  You can see the full list of pages in the photo to the right.  Some of the pages that I have are a general notes page, one for items to be analyzed, Reference Materials, Military records, Correspondence, Land Records, and the list goes on and on.  In some instances, I am creating sub-pages such as for the Charts and Reports – there I have created a sub-page for a timeline of the individual’s life.  The beauty of the sub-pages is that they can be collapsed into the main page if I need to clean up the view I am looking at.

The next illustration shows a surname notebook put into practice.  One of the awesome features with OneNote is the ability to move or copy sections and pages from notebook to notebook.  I already utilize this feature in that I have created a “family section” template that contains blank versions of everything that goes into a Family section.  I can just copy this section template into any one of my surname notebooks when I need it.  Additionally, I expect I will be using that feature as I create Section Groups for larger families.

A section group is something like what you see in this illustration.  The icon to the right of the person tabs has a label of “Earl LINK.”  When you click on this, what it contains is a set of family tabs for Earl and each of his children.  For many of the individuals that I am researching, I most likely won’t use this feature, but where it will come in handy is when I have an ancestor that I begin to research his or her down-lines.  At that point, in order to keep the family “together” in my research, I can group them into a section group labeled with the patriarch’s name.  The “move/copy” feature of OneNote allows me to take the individual sections and quickly shift them into a group when I deem one is needed.

I am really just getting started with this new setup in OneNote, so most of my pages and notebooks are pretty much blank as I still need to transfer my notes from Evernote over to OneNote.  Even as I am starting this, I am working with features such as linking notebooks (I can keep the section for a female ancestor under her maiden surname, but link her section into her husband’s section for quick reference between lines) and tagging notes for easier searching.

I still have a long way to go with getting completely setup with OneNote, but overall, this new organization feels right and for me is so much more intuitive to use than what I was trying to do with Evernote.  Evernote is still my go-to application for so much of my daily life, but OneNote has definitely become my “genealogist’s best friend” primarily because of the added depth of organization that it has allowed me.