Google It!

How many times have we heard that from someone?  What was the score for that baseball game?  Google it!  How do you take care of an orchid?  Google it!  How do I locate my ancestors?  Google it!  Okay, no, it’s really NOT that easy (don’t all genealogists wish it was?) but Google can definitely be a friend in genealogy.

Obviously Google has become a tool which many, many people utilize.  That much can be determined by the use of the word Google as a verb and the fact that Google (as a verb) has made it into the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Which, I might add, is pretty funny to me since I’m of that age group that remembers when people used to tell you to look in the card catalog.

From The Dork Side (FaceBook)

You can use Google to help you research how to do just about anything, find just about any place or understand just about anything.  But have you, as a genealogist, Googled your ancestor’s name?  I’ve previously Googled a couple of ancestor’s names and had no luck finding anything so usually what I use Google for is your standard internet look up.  But the other night, on a whim, I decided to try Googling another name of one of my ancestors.  I wasn’t expecting to find anything but I needed a break from my research so I figured “what the heck!” and typed my ancestor’s name and last known location, Guian McKee Kentucky, into the search box and hit the search button.

The first few entries were some pretty standard items: a WikiTree entry, some old emails someone had posted to the internet and some Ancestry forum entries.  It was rather interesting to read the old emails and see that others had been searching for this same ancestor but it was one of the Ancestry forum messages that really intrigued me.  A user was asking anyone if they knew of a source for a book “Descendants of Guian McKee, Sr. & Abigail Lane” other than the Family History Library in Salt Lake.  And there was a reply to the question.  How exciting!  Even more exciting was the fact that the reply contained a link to a current blog that was supposed to have a synopsis of the book on it!  A quick perusal of the first few blog posts revealed nothing about the book or my ancestors but blogger KevinW had both a search box and list of labels on the right side of his blog.  Fantastic!  And what to my searching eyes should appear in the labels section but the name of “McKee”.  Even better!

Queue a click of the McKee label and perusal of the blog posts lists under it.  This led to an immediate add of the blog to my Feedly genealogy feed because it was quite obvious KevinW was researching another branch of Guian’s descendants.  Now I was wondering why in the world I hadn’t done this sooner?

I always try and contact potential cousins on the off chance that they might want to exchange information.  Most of the time I strike out, but lately, I’ve been getting lucky and finding cousins who are happy to exchange information.  KevinW was one who was glad to share his knowledge.  I now have some new reading material thanks to his willingness to share what he knew about Guian.  I hope one day I can return the favor.

There are some tricks to Googling your genealogy.  Find My Past posted a good article here by Daniel M. Lynch which discusses some tips and tricks to Googling your family tree and Kimberly Powell wrote a good article on which provides 25 Google search tips for genealogists.  Lisa Louise Cooke has some fantastic resources on using Google in your genealogy, both paid and free.  You should take a minute to check out her website here.  Typing “Google” into her website search box will provide you links to past blog posts about Google and it’s tools (if you haven’t seen her webinar on Google Earth you are absolutely missing out!) and she’s got several Google-related items which have received really good reviews in her online store.

Googling your ancestor can be hit or miss but, as with any tool, learn how to use it and it can provide you with successful results.  And remember: “If at first you don’t succeed, call it Version 1.0.” (Author Unknown)

Genetic Genealogy…First Contact

I’ve been on such a genealogy-high since getting my DNA results back.  I honestly didn’t think I could get much more excited until…first contact!!!!!  I had pages of hints to review from AncestryDNA and as I was beginning to review each match on my DNA profile I received an email through Ancestry from one of my matches!  And…poof!  Just like that I was conversing with a fourth cousin through a branch of the family I hadn’t done hardly any work on because most of the line had already been traced.  And if that wasn’t exciting enough I learned that he was located only about an hour away from where I live (near where some of that family branch were buried) and some of his family actually lived in my area as well.

Until I received first contact I’d been a little hesitant to contact anyone.  Once first contact had been established I started going to town sending Ancestry messages to close matches.  And now it’s a waiting game to see if anyone responds back to any of the messages I sent out.  Meanwhile I’ll continue to explore the DNA profile to see what additional information I can gain from the DNA test.  Not one to remain idle, I’ve been working to get my raw data and GEDCOM file uploaded to GedMatch.  I’m still in the early learning stages of GedMatch and how to use it but I’ve heard it’s a very good resource.  And, of course, I’m also starting to explore the DNA, Genetics & Family Health section of Cyndi’s List, which has a dedicated section for GEDmatch & Other Analyzing Tools.  There is so much information on Cyndi’s List alone I’ll be occupied for a good, long while.

On a slightly different note, I’m also very excited to have been accepted into one of the upcoming Gen Proof Groups!  For those who don’t know the Gen Proof groups are small study groups who meet in an online forum and study the book Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, GG, CGL, FASG, FNGS.  I’m looking forward to fine tuning my current genealogical skills as well as adding new skills.


Life Got in the Way

And don’t you just hate it when that happens?  I know I do.  I’ve been noticeably absent from posting on my blog because of it.  But I definitely haven’t been idle.  My big project was changing employers.  I usually stay away from talking about work because, after all, this is a genealogy blog.  But I’m so excited about this new position I just couldn’t help but mention that I’ve moved over to a different association where I’m part of the professional development team…education for public works employees.  I’ve always loved learning new things myself so helping others continue learning is definitely up my alley.

And I haven’t been idle on the genealogy front either.  Here’s what I’m currently working on:

  • I’ve tried to ramp up working on my sources and citations.  Have I mentioned how much I hate citations?  I know they’re not the big deal I’m making them out to be but I’ll admit it, I stress out over whether I’m doing them right.  I really need to get a copy of Evidence Explained and read it but it’s not in my budget right now unfortunately.  So for now I’ll continue to try and figure out my citations using Family Tree Maker and the ProGenealogist Genealogy Citation Guides online.
  • Speaking of working on my sources, I’ve been ordering vital records and finds from the North Dakota State University archives as my pocketbook will allow.  I’ve got a surprising amount of documents to save/scan, sort and attach to my tree in Family Tree Maker.
  • I dug in and worked hard on my organization one weekend.  I’m utilizing the system set out in Eliminating Genealogy Clutter by Sherene Henrie Whiting with one or two tweaks.  I think this is a great system but I don’t have a lot of room for binders.  On the other hand, I have plenty of file cabinet space for hanging folders.  I’m not even close to being done but I think I’ve got a very good start.

Working hard on my genealogy organization and filing!
  • The spousal unit and I traveled to Iowa and sat down for a day of genealogy and family time with the Iowa family branch.  We had fun, shared some genealogy and made some VERY interesting discoveries!  Let’s just say when my puzzle pieces matched with their puzzle pieces we made a couple of full (or almost full) pictures.  It was very exciting.
  • I mentioned earlier that I was the recipient of a RAOGK (Random Act of Genealogical Kindness) when a non-relative happened upon some family ephemera and was kind enough to be willing to return it to our family.  You can read about that RAOGK here.  I was surprised to receive another email from this kind stranger letting me know he’d been contacted by the flea market seller again and had come into possession of one last piece of the family ephemera.  I feel very fortunate that he was willing to be the messenger to pass that last piece to me last weekend and a photo of my first cousin (once removed) has returned home.

A six-year-old Harold Wilkinson returned to the family fold
  • The spousal unit and I also dropped in on the North Dakota family branch and got to spend a little time talking with them…which, for me, inevitably leads to genea-talk.  The few hours we had with them turned out to be a few hours too little when we started talking about my father, who passed away a little over a year ago.  It’s fun to hear stories and thoughts from other family members about the people you love.  I haven’t talked much about my North Dakota family because I was working on my DAR paperwork (which is on the maternal side and not the paternal side, where the North Dakota connection comes in) but North Dakota has become a very special place for me in the last couple of years thanks to the kindness of family and friends there, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing about that side of the family in the future.

WHEW!  In between all of that I’m still attending as many genealogy education events as I can.  I’ve participated in some great webinars recently and I’m hoping to use some of what I’ve learned very soon.  I’ve been using the heck out of the Ancestry subscription the spousal unit gifted me and even broke down and put a public tree out there in hopes of getting some nibbles on my tree.

So here’s to getting back on the blog-wagon…I can’t wait to post some of my recent discoveries!


With the time off from work I had around Christmas time I devoted some time to beginning work on D1’s genealogy.  I had no idea what I would find or if it would be difficult to find information on his family but I was prepared for some quality time on different genealogy sites in search of information.  I was pleasantly surprised with my first foray onto to discover there were others out there who had done quite a bit of research into different parts of his family.

Like a good genealogist I began entering the information to prove into my database.  I’m always hesitant to use GEDCOM files I find online.  I’m just a little overly cautious, so I choose to re-enter the information manually.  It’s more time consuming but it also allows me to get to know each and every person I enter so I can usually remember one or two things about each person I add, plus I can verify the information I add.  In my opinion, those reasons alone balance out the time and effort it takes to enter the information manually.

I spent hours each day on my time off looking at different family trees on Ancestry, checking source documents and adding names to the family file.  D1 thought the amount of time I spent doing genealogy over Christmas break was pretty humorous and he began to joke about it with his family.  It’s all good though, because I got the last laugh.  I made it back to his 10th great grandfather and began entering the information and was surprised to get the following error message from Family Tree Maker:

Whaaaaa?????  What was this??  This was an error message I’d never received before!  No, there was no way we shared an ancestor.  I was sure I’d made a mistake in my entry of individuals.  So I checked the list of children for each Caleb and Hannah Knapp…and they matched.  To the name, date and place of each event listed for each child.  So I checked the source documentation to make sure these were the correct connections.  And they were.  Unbelievably, my husband and I share a common relative from the mid-1600s!  My 8th great grandfather was his 10th great grandfather.  I couldn’t help it, I started to laugh.  Poor D1 didn’t really find as much humor in it as I did.  He just didn’t get why it was so funny, but it was hilarious for me.  The maternal unit thought it was pretty funny and dear brother thought it was pretty funny, so maybe it’s a genealogy humor thing.

I haven’t done any research into the Knapp side of my family but after I told the maternal unit about my discovery and the possibilities of additional Daughters of the American Revolution patriots, she mentioned she had heard they were a pretty large and prominent family in early American history.  I’m having a very hard time focusing on just one genealogy project right now, LOL.  I want so badly to start working on supplemental patriots for DAR, even though I haven’t even received notification of acceptance of my initial DAR paperwork.  On the other hand I really want to see what else I can find on D1’s family.  His 2nd great grandfather died in France during World War I and is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.  I definitely want to look into him a little more and see what I can find out from the National World War I Museum’s research center.  Then there’s the rumored Native American connection in D1’s family, the woman who lived in the dugout that my mother-in-law remembers, and the part of the family my mother-in-law would like to know more about.  I feel so ADD right now, LOL.

So many projects, so little time for genealogy…what surprises have you found in your family?

Tombstone Tuesday: Elsa Sophia Altman

Welcome to Tombstone Tuesday!  Today we’re looking at the tombstone of my paternal first cousin, twice removed, Elsa Sophia Altman located in Anselm Lutheran Cemetery.

Tombstone of Elsa S. Altman
Anselm Lutheran Cemetery, Anselm Ransom, North Dakota

Elsa Sophia was the ninth of seventeen children of Robert Altman and Albertina Amelie (Lange) Altman.  She had five brothers (three older and two younger) and eleven sisters (five older and six younger).

Elsa Sophia was born 13 November 1902 in Anselm, Ransom, North Dakota.  She died 26 August 1903 in Anselm, Ransom, North Dakota.  Her tombstone inscription reads “A little flower of love that blossomed but to die.”  She’s buried in Anselm Lutheran Cemetery in Anselm, Ransom, North Dakota.  The cemetery borders what used to be family farmland.