Focusing my efforts in 2014

My strategy for focusing my genealogy efforts in 2014In December every year, I take some time to set some goals. I set them for my organizing business and for my personal life. This will be the second year I’ve set goals for my genealogy research. (If you want, you can read the goals I set last year.)

In thinking about my genealogy goals for 2014, I realized that I really want to be more focused and organized in going about my research. I still struggle with not knowing what to work on in any given session. And that lack of focus makes it hard for me to actually get started.

I just hit upon an idea that I think I’ll try. I’m going to assign a family line to each quarter of the year. In this structure (which I just thought of, so it’s still evolving in my head), I won’t be limited to working on that line necessarily, but if I don’t have something else specific I want to do, I will work on the family line assigned to that quarter.

I’ve decided that the schedule will be as follows:

  • 1st quarter: Adams (my father’s father’s line)
  • 2nd quarter: Brown (my mother’s father’s line)
  • 3rd quarter: Rasco (my father’s mother’s line)
  • 4th quarter: Jeffries (my mother’s mother’s line)

At the start of each quarter, I’ll take stock of where my research lies. I’ll use my progress tracker to see what census, vital and military records I’ve already located.

During each quarter, I’ll try to do the following for each of the lines:

  • Fill in the gaps on my progress tracker
  • Make sure my surname files for that line are organized on my hard drive
  • Ensure that everything in my paper files for that line is also organized on my hard drive
  • Fill in collateral relatives on my family tree in Reunion
  • Search for sources for unsourced data provided to me by cousins
  • Go up at least one generation in verified information
  • Attach photos to my family tree in Reunion

What I like about this idea is that it should keep me more focused. And help me feel less overwhelmed. It should get me past the “what should I work on today?” question that can be such a barrier. And, perhaps best of all, it gives me some specific goals and a deadline–the end of the quarter. (I love a deadline!)

The irresistible ScanSnap SV600

SV600_mat1I’m not a big early adopter of technology. Well, I did have an original iPad, but I didn’t get my iPhone until the 4S.

But since the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 contactless scanner was introduced just last month, I’ve found myself really wanting one. This scanner allows you to scan books, photographs, and documents without risk to the original. Documents rest on a surface and the scanner scans from above. Sounds like magic to me.

Today, it’s front of mind for two reasons: I have a family history book that my aunt lent me (“The Family of Edward Hampton Rasco and Connexions,” published in 1967) and she wants it back. I was thinking of potentially photocopying it, but what I’d really like is to be able to scan it.

Also today, a client showed me her marvelous collection of letters her father wrote during World War II.  She wants to have them scanned and make a book of them for her family members. This seems like a great application for the SV600.

One of the features that makes the scanner so appealing is that it will automatically straighten pages. In other words, the curvature of the page that naturally occurs when it’s bound into a book disappears, thanks to the included software. It also allows you to easily erase your fingers (used to hold a book open) from the image, and detects page turning, so you can turn the page and scan without having to press the button. (Check out this video from DocumentSnap.com’s review to see what I mean.)

I have a ScanSnap S1500M sheet-fed scanner and I love it. (It’s a precursor to the iX500.) But it’s only good for those items I feel safe sending through the sheet feeder. I imagine being able to easily and safely scan scrapbook pages, old photos, fragile letters, and pages of books using the SV600 and my heart goes pitter-patter. It’s surprisingly inexpensive for what it is. Right now it’s selling for just over $600 on Amazon. Stay tuned!

Civil War recordkeeping

Laban Taylor Rasco Civil War documentToday I had the good fortune to find the Civil War records for my great-great-grandfather (my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather), Laban Taylor Rasco. I initially found him listed in Alabama, Census of Confederate Soldiers, a document I found on Ancestry.com. That listed his company and regiment (he fought for the Confederate Army), which allowed me to easily find a lot of documents at Fold3.com.

He’s not the first Civil War ancestor for whom I’ve found documents, but he is the first on the Confederate side. Through the documents, I learned that he was injured in the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgie in September 1863 and that he was a held as a prisoner of war in a Union prison camp in Talladega, Alabama, and paroled on June 3, 1865, after the war had ended.

Of course, I’m dazzled and amazed that in a matter of a few minutes I can uncover and read these documents via the miracles of scanning and the internet.

But I’m also really amazed by the recordkeeping that took place in this war. When you consider that most forms were filled out by hand and that thousands upon thousands of soldiers fought, it’s remarkable. My great great grandfather was a mere private and today I saw 10 different documents.

I saw the movie Lincoln this weekend (and heartily recommend it) and it brought to life the absence of technology of that era. I am so impressed with the organizational skills that allowed these records to be kept and retained. And, of course, it’s very impressive that they continue to be well organized and accessible.

When names become people

I wrote a month ago about finding my grandmother on the 1920 census and being surprised that at the age of 13 my grandmother was classified as a farmer. I noted that her brother, Wilson, also a farmer, was 7 and didn’t know how to read or write. I noticed that in the 1930 census, after they’d moved to Washington state, Wilson was in school and could read and write. That seemed like an achievement.

Just now I discovered that Wilson is William Wilson Rasco, aka my father’s Uncle Bill. I remember him when I was a child. He was loads of fun and would howl in pretend pain when my brothers and I would give him “Indian burns” (i.e. rub his wrist in a twisting motion that’s supposed to hurt.) I knew he was a minister, but he never seemed like one to me, because he was so much fun.

As part of my family history research, I came across an obituary for Uncle Bill, in the Seattle Times. He died in 1996 and was a very accomplished and prominent leader in the United Presbyterian Church in Washington, North Idaho and Alaska.

So thanks to the joys of family history research, this person has gone from the name of a seemingly illiterate boy farmer in Texas to an influential minister with a doctorate in divinity. And a man whose infrequent visits delighted me as a little girl.

Incidentally, the obituary contained this nugget:

A 1978 Seattle Times story noted that Rev. Rasco’s fate was sealed at a young age. His mother, wife of a Yakima County orchardist, almost died in childbirth and vowed to commit her son to the ministry.

Since I’m not directly descended from this William Rasco, I haven’t been researching him. But finding his obituary led me to a newspaper story that let me know my great grandmother almost died in child birth and that my great grandfather was an orchardist. Of course, I need to verify this information, but it’s just another tantalizing thing to look into.