I am a woman of many interests. Sewing, photography, cooking … I’m regularly pursuing one of many hobbies, and I write about many of them here. I could (and have tried) have several blogs and keep my discussions about my hobbies separate, but I can barely keep up with one blog, let alone four or five or more. That’s why I’ve instituted those handy dandy categories at the top of the blog. Using those, a reader can see only the things they’re interested in, and none of what they’re not interested in seeing. And today, I add another category to the mix: Genealogy
My Family History … errr … History
Lest you think I’m new to genealogy, let me say that this is a hobby I’ve pursued on and off for the last 30-ish years. Even before I met my first husband, I spent quite a bit of time at the Clayton Library in Houston, skimming microfilm looking for long dead relatives. I picked it up and put it down, depending on what was going on in my life. Through marriage, the birth of children, divorce, and single motherhood, I continued looking for those relatives of the past. My daughter is even named after one ornery great great grandfather, Alexander Reaid. That is one difficult man to find, and he’s given me nothing but trouble for more years than I care to admit.
I’ve tried over the last couple of years to pick it back up, but because of one thing or another, it hasn’t worked out very well for me. I get busy, or I lose interest, or life happens. A couple of weeks ago, however, I dusted off my milk crate of files and installed Family Tree Maker 2017 on my computer and went back to it.
Family Ties That Bind
I first took a serious interest in my genealogy when my aunt by marriage, Dawn, took up the research of my dad’s family, the Bedfords and Smiths of Mississippi. Since she was doing the research on that side of the family, my mother and I decided to focus on her family, the Reaids and Grubbs’. Dawn spent a lot of time and effort on the research of my paternal branch, but alas, she and my uncle split up and I never got any of that research. Well, I do have names and dates, but I don’t have the source documentation that she gathered. She had all the birth certificates, death certificates, land records, census data, etc., and I got names and dates.
For my maternal side, I have even less. Some names, a few dates. A lot of headaches. Her family didn’t stay in one place for very long, and they used the same names over and over in one or two branches of the family. That makes finding the right people more difficult, and sometimes downright impossible.
My current research is a walk in the park, errrr … woods. The woods of Mississippi, actually. My dad’s family got to Mississippi and more or less settled in just two counties. Since I’ve never done the research on my dad’s family and I’m missing a lot of information, I’ve decided to start there. Frankly, it’s the easier of the two for me to work on at this point.
Things have changed a lot since I was deeply immured in my family’s history. These days, there is not much need to head to the Clayton library, or the Latter Day Saints (LDS, more commonly referred to as Mormon) library every weekend. Now, a massive amount of information is available online. Sites like FamilySearch.org (the LDS site), Ancestry.com, and FindAGrave.com allow folks to conduct research from the comfort of their own home.
FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com both offer the ability to use Family Tree Maker (FTM) software to upload your family tree to their sites and receive hints about ancestors. The problem is, a lot of these “hints” aren’t exactly correct. In some cases, they are downright wrong. Much of the matching is done to other peoples’ research, which isn’t always right. My experience has been that people aren’t always diligent in making sure they’re linking the right people to a family tree. A lot of the information on my Duncan line, for example, is just flat wrong on these sites.
Other People’s Genealogy
I’ve been told, but I’m not certain, that a genealogy is strongly encouraged, or perhaps a requirement, of the LDS religion. Whatever the reason, information from the LDS trees sometimes seems to be people rushing to get something on paper. Sometimes due diligence to ensure the information is accurate seems to be in short supply. I don’t usually include any information from other researchers in my own tree unless I can verify the accuracy. I’ve been burned before!
What I do with the information from other researchers is segregate it, but I don’t toss it. I keep both digital and paper files with information that others claim to be true. When I find information that either proves or disproves those claims, I will then include it in my own research, or I will mark it as incorrect. I learned a long time ago to keep detailed logs on what I research, because I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing the same work over and over. Trust me, when there are 15 Raleigh Duncans in a family, it’s easy to go in circles for months if not for a research log. I file research logs by surname so they’re easy to reference. If I work on more than one surname in a single session, I complete separate logs.
What About Organization?
Hahahahahahahaha. Oh, you were serious. My organizational style when it comes to my studio is impeccable. My organizational style when it comes to photography is pretty darn good. But my organizational style for my genealogy can best be described as insane squirrels hopped up on caffeine and Quaaludes at a rave. Sigh.
This is the one area where I struggle the most. My research is typically confined to one of those plastic milk crates. I noticed the other day, however, that many of the files I had previously are gone. I don’t know where they are, but I suspect they’re gone forever. My own file is missing! This causes me great consternation, so I’ve been doing some reading on the best way to set up a system.
I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. But I’m pretty sure it will employ a combination of digital files, notebooks and file folders. Really, I need a designated permanent space for my collection. I’m not sure where that would be, though. I don’t have a lot of open space. I shall persevere, though, and come up with a great permanent space/system. Then I’ll share it with you. Please, don’t hold your breath. I can’t be held responsible for damage you may do to yourself if you do that.
Next time I write on this subject, I’ll start to delve in to the actual research I’m doing. I know you can’t wait, but try to restrain yourself. 😊