My grandfather’s handwriting analysis

Getting my grandfather's handwriting analyzedAs I mentioned last month, I sent a handwriting sample (a 30+ page letter) to certified handwriting analyst Nancy Douglas of Write Meaning. I’d seen her booth at RootsTech and was fascinated by the service she offered.

The letter was from my paternal grandfather, Dave Adams, to his fiancee (my grandmother), Beatrix Rasco. It was a sort of confessional: Dave wanted to give Bea full disclosure about his personal family history prior to their marrying. It was sent just a month before their wedding date.

Well, Nancy didn’t disappointed. She provided me with a six-page (singled-spaced) report detailing the personality traits revealed by my grandfather’s handwriting. She took into account the content of the letter and applied it to what she saw in the handwriting.

I read information like, “Dave’s capital letters are often embellished with large loops. Your grandfather was a showman who liked to attract attention and recognition.” And “His personal pronoun ‘I’ shows his mother and father were both very influential in his upbringing.”

She included photos of individual letters and words to illustrate what she meant. It was such a fun report to read!

I was in my twenties when my grandfather passed away. We lived in different towns and while I spent time with him, I don’t feel I knew his personality well. And growing up I certainly never thought about what he was like as a young man.

I think this handwriting analysis is going to be a wonderful springboard for conversation with my 84-year-old father. I have a hard time pulling stories out of him about his family and childhood. I think by bringing up what Nancy gleaned from my grandfather’s handwriting and asking him about it, I’ll hear some great stories about my grandfather.  I’ll also discuss the analysis with my mother and get her perspective on my grandfather’s personality.

Reading Nancy’s report made me want to have my own handwriting analyzed. I think I’ll treat myself to that this summer!

I paid $100 for my grandfather’s handwriting analysis, which feels like a huge bargain for what I received. If you some letters hanging around and curiosity about their writer, I encourage you to give it a try!


Civil War pension records: a treasure trove

Civil War Pension Records are a treasure trove of informationAfter hearing an excellent talk at the NGS conference on what can be found in Civil War pension records stored at the National Archives, I placed an order for the records of three of my four Civil War veteran ancestors. (The fourth fought for the Confederacy, so his pension records would be with his state.) The fee was $80 per ancestor for the complete file and the application process was fairly straightforward. At the end, I was warned to expect it to take 45 to 120 days before I received any information.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) to receive a thick envelope from the National Archives in Washington D.C. today! It contained the pension records for my great great great grandfather, Richard Anderson Jeffries (1823-1914) who served in the Missouri infantry, Company D, 18th Regiment from 1861 to 1864.

I haven’t had a chance to go through the packet yet, but a glance shows me  that there are multiple applications for pensions as well as physicians’ affidavits.

I’m anxious to pore over it and unravel the story these documents tell. Luckily for me, Certified Genealogist Julie Miller, in her excellent talk, Anatomy of a Military Pension, gave step-by-step instructions on how to properly process the information found in these files. So I have my work cut out for me and I can’t wait!

If you have Civil War ancestors who fought for the Union and you have at least $80 to spend, I encourage you to hop over to the National Archives website (that link takes you directly to the application form starting point). If you have information on your ancestor’s military service (I found mine through Ancestry and Fold3), it’s easy to apply to receive a copy of the pension file. Those files have not been digitized, so the only way to look at them is to go to the National Archives or send away for them like I did.

Going beyond online resources

Going beyond online resources

The National Personnel Records Center

Like many beginning genealogy researchers, my first inclination is to go online to look for a fact or find a resource. If I don’t find what I’m looking for, more often than not I move on to the next thing to research online. But as I’m listening to veteran genealogists share their knowledge and expertise at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference, I’m learning that online resources are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

The first break-out session I attended was “But I’ve Looked Everywhere,” presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS. It was a tremendous session and a great way for me to kick off the conference. She went over an amazing array of resources where you might find the information you’re looking for. And guess what? Many of those resources aren’t easily available online.

After two days (so far) of the conference, I’ve come to realize that I need (and want) to get out of the house and explore the amazing repositories of information available in my own community. I’m fortunate to live where there are not one, but two, large public library headquarters (St. Louis City and County), both of which have genealogy departments. There is also the Missouri History Museum Library as well as the National Personnel Records Center of the  National Archives at St. Louis (the largest federal archive outside of Washington, D.C.). Also, the Missouri State Archives is just a couple of hours away in Jefferson City. They provide a great deal of information online through Missouri Digital Heritage, but I learned at the conference that there is much more information available that is not digitized. There is much for me to discover by researching in person.

One thing I’ve learned when I have gone out of town to research at various libraries is that it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and not take full advantage of what the repository has to offer. That’s because, I think, I’ve gone in thinking that I wanted to cast a wide net and learn as much as possible. Now I’m thinking I’m better off with a single focus, particularly if I’m using these local libraries where I can return again and again without effort.

In her talk, Barbara Vines Little said something that keeps echoing in my brain:

“You have to know what the question is before you can look for the answer.”

 –Barbara Vines Little

I need to go into to these libraries and archives with a very specific question in mind. That will help me stay focused and help me use my time well. I’m excited to figure out those specific questions and get started!

How do you use Facebook for genealogy?

FB-f-Logo__blue_100Facebook has become part of my daily life and, I bet, yours. It’s almost hard to imagine how we navigated the online world without it. I use it for lots of things, but I don’t use it a whole lot to further my genealogy research. I’d like that to change.

I know that Facebook offers a lot to genealogists and I’m wondering how you all use it. I belong to a few genealogy-related Facebook groups that I find really helpful when I take the time to read them. They are:

I’m also a part of one family group, which was helpful when a reunion was being organized last year. And, of course, I have the Organize Your Family History Facebook page.

Are there other genealogy-related groups or communities that you recommend? Do you use Facebook to find cousins or otherwise further your research? I’d love to hear about it!

Unfortunately, I’ve just realized that the Submit button for comments  disappeared! I apologize to anyone who wanted to comment and couldn’t. I have created a workaround, so you can post now, but am hoping to get back to my usual comments form soon.