Genealogy: Where you confuse the dead & irritate the living....

Surnames: Calaway, Dunn, Evans, Johnson, Lindsey, Rollins, Short & Williams

States: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, S. Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

Monday, February 23, 2009

Plan a Trip to a Cemetery.....

If you are like me, you have a few favorite venues that you like to do your research in....such as the Federal Census', Military Records, Death/Birth Certificates, etc. And we tend to get in a rut, so to speak. Being a creature of habit, we search the same records over & over again it seems. Which isn't a bad thing by any means....goodness knows I will spot something new in record's that I've looked at a million times before. Yet, as I said we get in a rut & tend to not spread out as much as we should in our research, tending to overlook venues that are just sitting there holding loads of useful information.

One of those venues that some will overlook is a cemetery! Hard to believe, but visiting a cemetery, that you have kin folks buried in, can be a genealogist dream. Those of you who have been a genealogy junkie for a while, will know what I'm talking about. And maybe any of you who are new to the world of genealogy will have a new venue to check out now. You can find birth/death/marriage dates, full names, spouse's name, parents names, children names, etc. Not that you are going to find all of that on each/every headstone, but some have been known to have all of that on them.

Just a couple of months ago, we made a trip down to one of the cemetery's that we have family buried in & couldn't believe all the "new" information I was able to discover that day. Plus, I don't know how to say this without it coming out as I'm a morbid type of person (which I'm not, by the, but I kinda felt closer to the relatives by being there. Up to then, most of them had just been a name I had down on my family tree. Now they were more real to me by me being with them at their last resting place.

Also on that trip I learned a couple of things that I wanted to pass on so you don't make the same mistakes that I did.

1. You'll definitely want to take your camera to capture a photo of their headstone. One thing I learned is to take the biggest/highest resolution of a photo that you can with your camera. I thought I would play it smart & take a small photo so I wouldn't run out of space on my camera's memory card. Big Mistake.... As I said, take the biggest/highest resolution photo that you can. You can always re-size a photo down but you can't always re-size a photo up!

2. Take your laptop with you if you are lucky enough to have one. For two reasons this is a good idea. One is, if you "should" fill up your camera's memory card, just download your photos onto your laptop -- then delete those off of your memory card & carry on. Second reason to take your laptop is, if you should run into a situation where you need to do a look-up of a relative, you'll have your genealogy program with you.

3. Another good idea to do is to take a few tools/supplies along. By that I mean, a pair of gardening hand clippers would be good to case the cemetery hasn't been taken care of & you need to clip back some of the growth/grass that might be covering up a grave marker. Also, take a soft brush (like a big paint brush) along. Many graves will have dirt & such on them & you'll want to brush it off to take your photo. A large garbage bag is good to have in the event the ground is wet & you need to get down on your hands/knees for cleaning the headstone or to take the photo. Don't forget to take a bottle of water, for drinking or to wash off a tombstone. One more thing that might come in handy is a big golfer's umbrella, if the sun is bright that day, you might need a way to block it from glaring on the tombstone. A lawn chair believe it or not. This will come in handy for taking some photos when you need to be at a certain angle. A spray bottle of water, this will be good to wet down a headstone (to bring out the engraving) if it is hard to read. A first-aid kit is always a good thing to have. You might be stung by a bee/wasp, cut yourself on one of the headstones, brush up against poison ivy.....just a lot of possibilities that might call for a first-aid kit. Roll of paper towels....they are always good to have along. FYI: Be sure & be on the look-out for Fire Ants! They are fast becoming a danger in our area (& the rest of the country) & are not to be messed with. I discovered several mounds of them up against the headstones in the cemetery I went to on my trip a while back.

4. If the cemetery is in a small town or way out in the country, think about taking a sack lunch. Believe me, you might be there longer than what you think. A trip to a cemetery is one that you don't want to rush through & take a chance of missing someone. Plus, taking a break to eat your lunch will give you time to re-evaluate your game plan & check to see who've found or haven't found yet. I wish I had done this on that trip we took. I could have sat down & took a closer look at the photos I had taken & discovered that some of them were out of focus & needed to be re-taken!!!

5. Be sure (& this is the most important hint of them all) to take someone with you! NEVER go along, sad to say nowadays it is never a good idea to go to a remote area by yourself. As well be sure to take a cell phone with you. Just as important also is to let someone know where you are going, the time frame you expect to be there AND the name/address of the cemetery. Play it safe...................

Hope any of you who have never been to a cemetery in your research, will plan a trip on some nice day in the future. I think you will be surprised in what you'll find & believe it or not, its a fun trip to take.

Later, Deb

One Last Thing....
One very important note to remember....never EVER do anything that might harm the cemetery &/or headstone(s). And please be respectful of where you are & act accordingly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Letter to the Editor....

So you've searched the census', death certificates, birth certificates, cemetery records, other words, just about everything you can think of. Yet, you still are having problems in finding some of those darn elusive relatives! Well, I might have a venue for you to try that you haven't thought of before. And before you think that I came up with this particular hint, don't! lol I found it in Ancestry's Magazine back in December of 2007. (((Ancestry Magazine, Nov/Dec 2007, page 10, "Reaching Out with a Letter to the Editor", author: Dr. Ann David)))

And basically what the hint is, writing to the editor of the local newspaper of the town your relative(s) is from, asking for some assistance in your genealogy research. Of course, this idea wouldn't work for a large populated city, but for those small towns, you stand a very good chance of receiving some feedback from relatives/friends still living in the area. It would at least be worth a try, right?

You're not guaranteed that the editor will print your letter, but as a whole, small towns are friendly & usually willing to help others. Dr. Ann David said she wrote her letter & after it was printed in the newspaper, she had her first reply back within 10 days. A long missing relative gave her information going back 5, 6 & 7 generations past. Now how many of us wouldn't "love" to get such a reply back with all of that info? :)

Dr. Ann David had part of her letter that she sent to the editor, as well as giving 4 things/hints to keep in mind & I quote those parts of her article here:

Quote -- Letter from Dr. Ann David to the editor....
Dear Editor,
For the past year, I've been trying to trace the earlier members of my family. In searching for the Allens, I've come to a standstill in Overton County, Tennessee, & more specifically, in Livingston.
If you know anyone who might know where these people are buried -- or anything at all concerning these people -- & would enlist their aid in my behalf, I would be most grateful. Anything at all would help.
Thank you in advance for your time. I hope to hear from you or possible relatives or friends very soon.
Unquote Letter...

Quote -- Hints from Dr. Ann David:
1. Choose small community newspapers. Large cities receive an overabundance of letters -- printing your plea may not be a high priority. Small community papers, however, could be pleased to print a letter from an outsider who is interested in their community, its heritage, & its inhabitants.

2. Send the information you'd like printed. Newspapers can't print what you don't send. While odds are good that they'll pare down the letter for space, the paper I contacted printed everything I sent. The paper you contact may do the same.

3. Respect respondents. Begin by thanking the editors -- you may need their help again. Then be sure you're cooperative with your new found family. When you receive replies from people who can't help, thank them anyway. They may later happen upon just the source you need.

4. Write more letters -- electronically & by hand. Senior family members may prefer handwritten letters, while other generations may prefer e-mail. Always remember that you're asking strangers to share their time with you. Be accommodating, understanding & appreciative of everything they offer.

FYI: If you don't know the local newspaper for a particular area/town, you can look in my sidebar of "My Favorite Genealogy Links" & there you'll find a link to the "US Newspaper List" web site.

I hate to say this, but I have yet to try any of this myself. As I said, I found it back in December of 2007 & my time has just not allowed me to do much genealogy research of that type. Time is finally starting to free up for me & I will most assuredly be trying this for some of my elusive relatives. :)

Good Luck!!!!

Later, Deb

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Photos & Scanning....

My thoughts on digital vs. film photography. Now personally, I love the new format of digital photos! It's easy, convenient, space saving, etc...a wonderful invention. Yet, how much of a guarantee do we have that 50+ (heck, make that 10) years from now, we'll still be able to have access to them? Think about it for a minute. Technology nowadays is constantly changing, while they are coming out with the latest version of something, they are already in their laboratory's improving it for the next/newest release. Remember the floppy disk? Where is it now? (((I'm just saying....)))

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we need to chunk the digital format & go back to film processing necessarily. I have family photos over 70 years old & I'd just hate for the future generation to lose all of the digital photos being taken nowadays....just because 70 years from now, they can't access their old photos. So what is the answer? Maybe it would be a good idea to get your digital photos printed out professionally, so you'd at least have a physical copy for future, instead of just sitting on your computer. I say professionally printed out, such as by Walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc.....don't depend on your home computer printer for that keepsake photo. The ink used by home printers just isn't as long lasting as what a photo processor uses. I know you can get a CD disk copy of the photos you have developed nowadays, I wished they could/would also offer a set of negatives as well. Now that would solve the dilemma all around in my opinion.

HINT: If you do have a digital camera & have your photos saved on your computer, be sure I really need to say it? Back-up....Back-UP.....BACK-UP!!!! lol Put them on a CD, an external hard drive, flash drive -- or even doing all 3 wouldn't hurt.

HINT: Now that you've backed them all up & have them on a different device, make 2 or 3 different copies & store them in different places. Such as a safety deposit box, at work, at a relative's house, might consider mailing them to someone in a different part of the state you live in.....heck even someone out of state wouldn't be such a bad idea. And the reason on that, like in my home state (Arkansas), we are known for having tornadoes, where disasters can happen over a wide range of an area. Maybe I sent my copies to my sister in the northern part of the state & a tornado comes through, traveling the 60 miles between us leaving destruction along the entire way. You never know....

HINT: Quick note on editing your photos. If you do any editing, you might want to consider making a copy of the original & do your editing on the copy. Keeping the original as it is, is just good practice, but as I mention above, technology is always changing. What you might correct on your original today, could be done much better with the latest software in the future. Yet now you've edited your original & won't be able to get the better results. Besides, it is just good practice to keep the original as take your chances of messing it up for good by using the original.

Later, Deb