It’s my 3rd blogiversary!

happyblogiversarylgJune 14 marked three years since I published my first post here. (That post was called My quest to learn more about my family history.) Time goes by so quickly. I am so glad I decided to start this blog, for lots of reasons. It has done a wonderful job of helping me stay focused on my family history research. It has prompted me to go to genealogy conferences. It has brought me closer to family. And it has helped me make new friends.

The most popular post on the blog so far has been Reading hard-to-read gravestones, in which I discuss using aluminum foil to make a gravestone legible. I had read about that technique elsewhere and documented my use of it, with my husband’s help, on a family cemetery trip. That particular post has gone my small-scale version of viral: In the last two days, it has been viewed over 5,000 times!

Speaking of statistics, in my first two blogiversary posts, I gathered and published a few statistics. In the interest of consistency, I’ll do it again:

In the third year of this blog:

  • I wrote 72 posts (74 in year two, 79 posts in the first year).
  • There were a total of 84,270 views (35,198 the second year, 6,424 in year one).
  • I had 245 comments, about half of which were my own (compared to 316 and 106 comments in past years).
  • 272 people subscribe to the blog (that number was 160 a year ago and 82 on 6/14/13)

So it looks like I’ve remained somewhat steady in terms of the number of blog posts (though I would have guessed that I’d posted more!). Pageviews and subscribers are growing. In the 2014 calendar year, I had about 55,000 views and I set a goal this year of 100,000 views. I’m on track for that, which is great. (I love having goals.)

I’ve had the opportunity to meet several blog readers at conferences this year and that has been so wonderful! (I was even recognized by a couple of people at the NGS conference!) I hope to meet more of you in the coming year.

Thank you so much for reading this blog. If there are any topics you’d like me to address in Year Four, please let me know!

Third edition of Evidence Explained is available!

New edition of Evidence Explained is out!The newest edition of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, has just been released. I ordered mine from Amazon last month and it arrived last week. Very exciting!

Evidence Explained is the gold standard for source citation. This new volume is a hefty 892 pages. It’s hardcover. And heavy. (And also available in an electronic edition.) But it contains within its covers the answers to knotty problems of how to cite a source. This edition includes updated information citing genetic sources as well as sources from the Internet.

Over the last few years that I’ve been doing more serious genealogy research on my family it has become very clear that citing and analyzing sources is the key to doing accurate, reliable research that holds up over time. Great source citation also helps other genealogy researchers who may want to use the data I’ve gathered because they can tell it’s reliable and find it themselves if they want. It may feel like extra work to create a proper source citation, but it’s the kind of thing that can pay dividends in the future. The hefty source I created for my ancestor’s Civil War pension records will allow me or any researcher to be able to find the source again. And its validity is apparent by the citation.

If you’re serious about your genealogy research and don’t have Evidence Explained on your bookshelf, the publication of this third edition might be just the reason to invest $54 to have it at your fingertips. If you already have the second edition, you can trade it in at Amazon for $29.74 credit and use it toward the third edition! (Thank you to Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers for this tip.)

I haven’t had a chance to use the third edition since it arrived last week, but as soon as I get a break from clients, I’m going to read Chapters 1 and 2 on basic principles and plan to consult the work frequently when I’m creating source citations.

Connecting with an ancestor in NYC

Last weekend, I played tourist in New York City with my twenty-year-old niece, Miranda, who is Australian. She was making a stop in New York en route from Costa Rica back to her home in Australia and invited me to join her in the Big Apple. How could I say no?

She had a long list of sights she wanted to see on her first visit to New York (and we saw most of them). I had just sight on my list: A little street named after our ancestor. Thankfully, Miranda had enough interest in our family history to jump at the chance to go with me to see Coenties Alley.

Thanks to the  genealogy research done by my mother’s first cousins Jerry and Judy Brown, I know that Miranda and I are descended from Conraet Ten Eyck, who emigrated to New York City (then New Amsterdam) in the mid-17th century. He made a good living as a tanner and shoemaker and had sizable property near the area of Lower Manhattan now known as Coenties Slip.

Miranda and I visited Coenties Slip, now a pedestrian walkway and  small park just off Pearl Street near Broad Street. There is also a pedestrian walk called Coenties Alley near Coenties Slip. (Coenties combines the names of Coenradt and his second wife, Antje.)

I had heard about Coenties Alley and Slip more than a decade ago, but this was my first visit to New York where making a pilgrimage to that spot was feasible.

Here’s a photo Miranda took of me in Coenties Alley. (She also took the photo of the Coenties Slip street sign, above.)

janine on coenties alley

One of the things that I love about genealogy research is how it brings history to life. Having this connection to lower Manhattan gave that area new meaning to me. And it was wonderful to be able to share it with my niece!

 

Processing Civil War pension files

Processing civil war pension filesAs I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I received my 3d great grandfather’s Civil War pension files from the National Archives in record time. I’d been prepared to wait 45 to 120 days and it arrived the week after I submitted the request online.

I dug right in and started processing the information. I was so grateful that I had attended the class Anatomy of a Military Pension, presented by Certified Genealogist Julie Miller at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference that month. She provided step-by-step instructions of what to do with a military pension.

So the day after I received that 65-page pension file, I did what Julie suggested. I put the documents in chronological order and I assigned a number to each. Then I figured out a citation for the overall file and a  citation for each of the numbered documents.

Coming up with a proper citation was a bit of a challenge and I emailed Julie, who was kind enough to share the citation she uses for these files. (She had given us that info in the talk, but I hadn’t written it down.)

Here’s the citation I’m using for the overall pension file for my ggggrandfather, Richard Anderson Jeffries:

[278] Jeffries, Richard Anderson (1st Sgt., Company D, 13th Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Infantry, Civil War), application no. 567612, certificate no. 529585, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

278 was the next number in my source list in Reunion, my family tree software. Each of the individual documents is numbered, starting with 1, and has its own citation. My intention is that when I enter a fact into Reunion, I’ll use Source 278, but I’ll include in the memo field which of the 26 individual documents that particular fact came from.

I created citation labels for each of the documents and affixed them to the appropriate pages. (That’s the citation for document 16 above.) Then I scanned the whole document into a pdf. (I elected to have one pdf, rather than 26 individual ones–time will tell whether that was a good choice.)

The next step, according to Julie is to transcribe the documents. Yes, I’m going to type word for word exactly what is on the documents. Julie urged us not to skip that step because when we transcribe, we learn things we would not otherwise learn.

After I transcribe, I will abstract the documents, so I can tell at a glance what they are and what info is contained within each.

Then I’ll analyze the documents and enter the new-found facts into my software.

That’s a lot of work, but I’m delighted to have learned how to be thorough with it. And I know I’ll learn so much about my ancestor.

I am so grateful to have this structure, because just a few days after receiving Richard Anderson Jeffries’s file, I received the pension file for my gggrandfather, George Washington Adams. That file is over 100 pages; I had to request and pay for the rest of the file (another 80 pages) to be copied–I’m still waiting for part two. That same week I received the third and final pension file, for another gggrandfather, Benjamin Franklin Igleheart. All three pension files, probably 250 pages, came within two weeks of my request.

If I did not have the structure Julie provided in that talk to thoroughly process the information, I know I would feel overwhelmed. I would probably skim the documents, pluck out a few easy-to-find facts, and put them away intending to get to them later. And I don’t know when later would be.

I have skimmed the most recently received pension files to get a preview what I’m going to learn. (G.W. Adams had a big dispute about the amount of his pension–an adversary in the Soldier’s Home turned him in for saying he was more disabled than he was!) But I’m not going to analyze them until I’m finished with Richard Anderson Jeffries. So that will be motivation to go through the process.

I think these pension files are going to be a great learning experience not just about my ancestors, but also about doing proper genealogical research. This feels great!