Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What Does an Heirloom Look Like? Not Like This!

This is NOT a family heirloom!
Devon Noel Lee of Family History Fanatics was the guest expert for a recent #Genchat, all about downsizing with #FamilyHistory in mind. (You can learn more from her book.)

Devon posed thought-provoking questions about how to decide what to save for future generations. Judging by the relatively few heirlooms that I've inherited, clearly my ancestors did their own downsizing, starting with decisions about the handful of items they brought from Eastern Europe to America. My husband's family has been in America much longer and has had much more storage space, which is why so many interesting items have survived over the years.

It's so hard to say goodbye

During #Genchat, we had a lively discussion about how difficult it can be to let go of inherited items, especially if they provoke strong emotions about people, places, and events from our family's past.

Still, if we downsize thoughtfully and carefully, we can focus the next generation on items of special significance to our family.

Also, there was a lot of conversation about photos. My take-away: I have to get back to scanning, captioning, and dating as many photos as possible now. Otherwise, descendants may never know who's who.

My little red bench

I do have a number of heirlooms to pass to the next generation. That doesn't include the item in the photo at top. It's a wooden bench about 6 inches high and 12 inches long. Originally, the bench was red with some cutesy saying or song on the top.

As toddlers, Sis and I each had one of these benches, which we put next to the sink so we could reach to wash our hands. This bench has been repainted more than a few times during its long life, moving to ten different homes with me over the years. I'm not particularly attached to it. It just takes up little room and is handy to use whenever I need a step up.

However! No matter how many years it's been with me, I definitely don't consider this bench to be a family heirloom. It has no special significance, other than being a useful little bench. After I join my ancestors, someone else can repaint and reuse it or retire it--guilt-free.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Future Family History: The Upside of Being Inside During a Pandemic

Testing whether a video can be embedded in webinar
Dear future generations: More about living life during the novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Here are highlights of the final week in March, spent mostly indoors.

Genealogy galore indoors

The upside of being inside: Plenty of time for genealogy!

Katherine Willson, head of the Virtual Genealogical Association, was kind enough to help me with a test as I prep for my webinar, "Curate Your Genealogy Collection--Before Joining Your Ancestors!" scheduled on November 24th.

I wanted to embed one or two brief (30-second) videos into my webinar. My hubby videoed me showing off an archival box with a scrapbook of World War II letters. I talked about labeling the box on two sides, and keeping the scrapbook safe with archival tissue paper between the pages.

Unfortunately, it turns out video can't be embedded in a webinar (we tested without success, then asked Thomas MacEntee, who explained the technical reason why it won't work). So instead, I'll include photos and do a voice-over during the webinar.

Another upside to being inside: Time to binge-watch genealogy webinars! As a VGA member, I blazed through several previously-recorded webinars, printing the handouts for note-taking as I watched.

It was so much fun participating in both the Friday and the Saturday #Genchat Twitter conversations about downsizing with genealogy in mind (guest expert: Devon Noel Lee of Family History Fanatics). Also I enjoyed this week's #AncestryHour conversation on Twitter.

In addition, I'm watching the MyHeritage webinar marathon, little by little, a great opportunity to learn from the experts!

Meanwhile, outside...

One early morning, I scraped ice off my car and went to the supermarket to take advantage of "senior-only" hours (ahem, I barely qualify, right?).

In the pre-dawn hours, I wiped down my shopping cart with disinfectant and walked through the aisles, rarely seeing another shopper. Happy dance: disinfectant spray was back on the shelves--limit 2 per customer. I bought 2! Fresh chicken in the meat department, no beef for stew or meatloaf. Lots of produce. No toilet paper in stock, but none needed for another month at least ;)

After loading my cart to the brim--ready for two more weeks of staying indoors--I checked out, standing a safe six feet away from the customer in front of me. At home, I unloaded everything and wiped all packages down with disinfectant, just in case, then showered and washed my clothes and coat. Whew.

This was the only time I got into the car all week. Hubby and I walk around the block on sunny days, greeting friends and neighbors from a safe distance.

This will be the rhythm of our days until late April, when I hope New England will be past the apex of this awful coronavirus crisis.

Readers, please stay indoors and stay healthy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No Longer Forgotten: Searching for Mahler Babies

Searching for "no given name" with surname and parents

My great-grandparents, Tillie Jacobs Mahler (185?-1952) and Meyer Mahler (1861-1910) had 7 children that I knew about, from family photos or Census records or both.

But there were a few gaps between births. One gap (late 1880s) I attributed to Meyer and Tillie arriving in New York City a year apart after leaving Eastern Europe. Were other children born during the gaps?

Checking the 1910 US Census

I returned to the 1910 Census, where Tillie said she was a widow.

As circled on the snippet above, she told the enumerator she had 10 children in all, but only 7 still living. (The 1910 Census is one of my favorites because of this question!)

In the 1900 Census, Tillie said she had 9 children in all, but only 7 still living.

The search was on for these missing Mahler children.

Searching by "no given name"

To look for children that Tillie and Meyer might have had (and lost) in America, I searched the New York City/state birth/death collections of FamilySearch and Ancestry.

These specific databases would be the most likely to have records about babies born/died from the mid-1880s to the early 1900s. The Mahlers lived nowhere other than New York City after arriving from Eastern Europe in the 1880s.

Leaving the "given or first name" field blank, I inserted "Mahler" for the surname and added Meyer Mahler as father, Tillie (no last name) as mother. I also searched for and looked at creative spellings of Mahler (such as "Maler").

The screen shot at top shows the top search results: Two Mahler boys.

Found: Two Mahler boys

The first search result was for a son named Wolf Mahler, born September 10, 1890. Unfortunately, Wolf died at the age of 3 on January 13, 1894, of "acute Bright's" (kidney disease). What makes this particularly poignant is that Wolf's mother Tillie was pregnant with her next child, born in July of 1894.

The second search result was for a baby boy named Sundel Mahler, born sometime early in 1901. He died on April 5, 1901, according to the death index, and was buried (like Wolf) in Mt. Zion Cemetery in New York.

This boy would be #10, born after 1900 (when Tillie told the Census she had 9, 7 still living) and before 1910 (when Tillie told the Census she had 10, 7 still living).

Little Sundel was the last of Tillie and Meyer Mahler's children that I can find. He was born 20 years after their first-born child (that was my Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk).

Both Wolf and Sundel are now included on my Ancestry family tree, never again to be forgotten.

Still Searching for One Mahler Baby

The other "missing" baby is, for now, still missing, nowhere in the first 150 or so results in Ancestry and Family Search.

I've also searched Mt. Zion Cemetery, where Meyer and Tillie and the two baby boys were buried. Only a few Mahler names are long-shot possibilities. I'm going to check these names by searching for their death certs and parents. The rest of the Mahler names in this cemetery I can rule out due to the burial dates.

My guess is that the missing child was born and died in Latvia before the family left for America, but this is only a guess.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52Ancestors prompt.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Edward Wirtschafter's Day in Court

Edward Wirtschafter and his partner Geza Rev
had their say in the Supreme Court of NY
With the coronavirus shut-down keeping me indoors, I've been taking a fresh eye to my family tree and various ancestors. Because new materials become available online every day, this is a great time to update my genealogy research without leaving home!

Last night, I was surprised to learn something new about Edward Wirtschafter, the husband of my great-aunt Mary Schwartz (1891-1959).

Edward was born in Hungary and trained as a furrier in France before arriving in New York City in 1907. He and my great-aunt eloped on Christmas Eve of 1913. When his U.S. citizenship was finalized a few months later, she--born in Ungvar, Hungary--automatically became a U.S. citizen as well.

Simple Search: Name in Quotation Marks
Searching "Edward Wirtschafter" - top result!

By using a simple online search for "Edward Wirtschafter" (inside quotation marks) I located a book digitized by Google. It's the top result shown here. But directly below it on the results page is another snippet. Take a look:

As shown above in a small article in the Fur Trade Review of February, 1919, Edward joined with coworker Geza Rev to take over the fur manufacturing business where they had been working, after the owner retired. Edward was in charge of design and manufacture, while Geza was in charge of sales.

Now I returned to the top search resultSupreme Court Case on Appeal, and pieced together the following story about Edward's legal odyssey. I'm presenting the overall outline as I understand it, plus a bit of context. NOTE: I'm not a lawyer so the finer points argued in the transcripts are beyond me. And believe me, there were some very detailed points being argued, back and forth, in hundreds of pages of details and exhibits.

Roaring Twenties, Fur Fashions, and Disputes

Fur coats were becoming very trendy as World War 1 wound down and the Roaring Twenties geared up. As demand increased, fur skins and fur coats became even more valuable week after week. Companies were eager to get in on this fast-moving fashion trend.

During the summer of 1919, Wirtschafter, Rev & Co. struck a complicated deal with the Schwartz Brothers*, another fur firm in New York City. The Schwartz firm would acquire hundreds of fur skins and provide them to the Wirtschafter firm.

In turn, the Wirtschafter firm would make dozens of fur coats and deliver to the Schwartz firm for sale. They agreed on pricing that would compensate the Schwartz firm for the raw skins and compensate the Wirtschafter firm for the manufacturing.

However, the two firms were soon at odds, disputing bills and delivery dates and more. Ultimately, the Wirtschafter firm filed suit to receive payment it said was due but had not been paid. The Schwartz firm disagreed, and the case went to a jury.

The bottom-line amount demanded by the Wirtschafter firm: $3,913.30, plus interest--worth nearly $61,000 today.

Legal Complications Ensue

The case was originally filed at the end of 1919. The Wirtschafter firm won a judgement of $3,685.55, including interest, during a jury trial. Then the Schwartz firm appealed.

The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division considered the appeal.

The final word came in June of 1926. As shown above, the original judgment was affirmed, with court costs awarded to the Wirtschafter firm, as far as I can tell.

Entrepreneur Edward Wirtschafter

Even as the original law suit wended its way through the legal process, my great uncle and his partner parted ways. In 1921, Edward Wirtschafter incorporated a new company, with himself as director, treasurer, and secretary. He built his business by giving personal service and making quality fur fashions. As late as 1953, Edward had a fur business in Manhattan...I found it listed under his name in the phone book.

What an exciting find, learning about Edward Wirtschafter's day(s) in court. All because I'm stuck inside and have lots of time to go over my genealogy research, clicking to do new searches and look for new clues!

* no relation to Edward's in-law Schwartz family.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Inspiration from Ancestors: Asenath Cornwell Larimer

The untimely, accidental death of my husband's fourth great uncle James Larimer (1806-1847) left his wife, Asenath Cornwell Larimer, a pioneer widow with a handful of young children to support.

As shown above, her husband's estate was appraised at $125, the value of household goods like brooms, a bed, farm equipment, and so on. Not shown are several IOUs totaling a few dollars, and the bill for appraisal and settling the estate.

My guess is there was little actual cash to keep Asenath and her kids afloat for the long term. So a few years later, when her brother John Cornwell and his neighbors decided to join the Gold Rush, she did the same.

Asenath left her children behind in the care of other family members and set out from Ohio, in March of 1852, bound for California and a new life. Her youngest child was not even 7 years old when Asenath began her journey. Her oldest was 15.

Asenath Keeps a Journal

Asenath wrote a journal for a full year, March 1852 to March 1853, commenting on her long journey, her fears, her hopes, and her faith. You can see the journal was transcribed and typewritten, now in a university library here.

The first entry, dated March 16, 1852, tells how her children begged her not to go. She writes that after considerable prayer, "in the Lord put I my trust." It was her oldest son's birthday, and "oh how much have I thought of him during the day," she laments, not knowing when or if she might see him ever again.

She and her brother book passage on the Lady Franklin to St. Louis (cost: $10 per person). She continues to think about her children left behind, "there is a whispering of conscience that I am in the path of duty, and I feel a strong faith that the Lord will go with me and bring me back again, and . . . [he will] be a Father to my fatherless children..." at this time, she writes. It's quite clear from the journal that her faith sustains her through many difficult challenges in the months ahead.

The Circle of Life 

Soon Asenath and her brother switch to the Pontiac to go "up the Missouri" River. She falls ill but quickly recovers. Just two weeks into the journey, a child on the boat dies, buried in the woods during a brief stop on shore. Two days later, an older man becomes ill and dies. Asenath is coughing and begins taking Dr. Janes Expectorant [sic, see here for formula].

By mid-May, her wagon train has joined a "constant crowd of wagons" headed west. She writes: "Colera and small pox both among these trains. 30 fresh graves have been counted on that road." Several more of her traveling companions sicken, pass away, and are buried.

Meanwhile, babies are born along the way, to the great joy of all in the wagon train.

Through the Nevadas to Volcano and Clinton

California had been a state for less than two years--and Asenath writes of passing out of the United States, then entering the States again. By mid-September of 1852, six months into the journey, she and her brother reach Volcano (east of Sacramento). Days later, they go 8 miles to Clinton, where they choose a lot and set up a tent. Her brother will prospect for gold while Asenath takes in washing and patching and baking.

Unfortunately, he and his partners don't find as much gold as they would like. He sells oxen for credit to buy food. Asenath chronicles the steady rise in prices for various commodities. She bakes and sells pies, clearing enough to cover costs.

By March of 1853, the brother and sister have halted efforts to find gold and begin putting down roots. Asenath plants a garden and settles into her California life. Through letters from home, she knows her children are doing well.

Larimers Reunite in California

1863 San Francisco city directory showing Asenath Cornwell Larimer and her son
Asenath must have encouraged her children to join her in California once she was settled. In fact, several did make the journey to California. On the other hand, one son married in Indiana and remained there for his entire life.

In the 1861 city directory for San Francisco, dated September of that year, Asenath is listed as a widow, living at 913 Stockton. By 1863, the city directory for San Francisco showed Asenath as a baker, living with her son Anderson Wright Larimer, who was a partner in a harness-making firm.

A few years on, Asenath moved to Santa Monica, where she was among those who organized the public library. Her granddaughter Elfie Asenath Mosse (1867-1939) was the first librarian in 1890 (according to History of Los Angeles County, vol 3 by McGroarty).

Asenath as Inspiration

Asenath Cornwell Larimer lived from 1808-1897. After she was widowed, she never remarried. She was a woman of strong faith, twice a pioneer, a settler and civic leader, the mother of a Civil War soldier, the grandmother of a librarian.

In the midst of the current coronavirus crisis, I find the life and times of my husband's amazing ancestor quite inspiring. Which ancestor inspires you?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Future Family History: Living through a Pandemic

Putting the pieces together
March, 2020
Dear future generations: I'm writing today about everyday life as the novel coronavirus spreads worldwide.

The public-health outlook at this moment is decidedly uncertain. Although my New England area has few confirmed cases, testing is not yet widely available here and therefore the pandemic is likely to be more widespread than we actually know right now.

Around the world, infections and deaths continue to increase, I'm sad to see. It's a worrisome time. As I wash, sanitize, clean, and repeat, I'm trying to follow the UK's WWII mantra: "Keep Calm and Carry On."

Social Distancing for Safety

Social distancing is not a phrase I'd heard in the past but now hubby and I have been doing just that. We've curtailed outside activities while public places and social events shut down, day by day. We're calling and/or videochatting and/or texting with friends and family to keep spirits up and be sure everyone is safe.

Last week, I was in my local public library several days in a row, borrowing books, puzzles, and DVDs. By the weekend, the library had closed its doors to protect both staff and the public. So did all other community places (senior centers, fitness centers, theaters, movies, schools/colleges). No concerts, no book clubs, no school theater productions, no classes, no nothing.

Local supermarkets have struggled to keep up with demand for cleaning supplies in particular and some foods too. Within a few days, these stores rebounded to stock their empty shelves, and some are offering early-morning shopping hours for people 60 and over.

My pantry is currently filled with shelf-stable foods in case hubby and I need to shelter in place. The fridge is full, and I removed my ice-cube trays to make room for actual food in the freezer.

Daily Life Has Changed Dramatically

Cleaning. Cleaning. Cleaning to keep ourselves and others safe. Also, hubby and I are planning meals more carefully, thinking about what has a shorter shelf life and what will be good for a longer period. Cooking and eating together is a time for conversation and listening to NPR.

Puzzles are a good diversion. At top, one of the three puzzles we have in the house and have been assembling little by little. Sis tells me she has a puzzle or two on hand, and is enjoying the challenge.

We watched a live Facebook concert by the Jolly Beggars to "celebrate" St. Patrick's Day, instead of attending their live concert (cancelled). It was very uplifting and we even sang along to "Charlie on the MTA." I bet lots of the 700 viewers did the same!

As a mystery lover, I have lots of printed books in the house and my local library gives me access to digital books. I bought, downloaded, and devoured Nathan Dylan Goodwin's latest genealogy mystery, "The Sterling Affair," which I recommend. It's his most complex to date, entertaining for anyone interested in genealogical methodology AND mystery.

Happily, with spring bursting out, we can enjoy buds and soon flowers as we take walks outside and greet friends and neighbors from a safe social distance. This is the new normal.

More Time for Genealogy

There's more time for genealogy than ever before. I've caught up on some Wood family branches that had not been fleshed out on my Ancestry trees (2c1R, 2c2R, and beyond). Also I've looked for newspaper articles to help a friend whose two daughters are suddenly interested in their ancestors!

This is an excellent opportunity for me to take the deep dive into DNA Painter, which requires a learning curve on my part. I've registered but not put enough effort into using this wonderful resource, which I find a bit intimidating. I do intend to learn more!

That's about it for today's future family history. I'll write updates at a later date, and keep at my regular genealogy blogging.

Please stay safe, readers! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

St. Paddy's Day FAN Club Census Page

1850 Census for Clinton township, Elkhart county, Indiana - showing Larimer FAN club
For St. Patrick's Day, I looked at some of hubby's ancestors who told U.S. Census enumerators that they were born in Ireland. No counties listed, just country of origin, unfortunately.

My husband's Larimer family, originally from the north of Ireland, intermarried in America with cousins from the Work, Short, and McKibbin families--families that were also originally from Ireland.

These families are part of the Larimer FAN club (meaning Friends, Associates, Neighbors).

FAN Club in Clinton Township, Indiana

The FAN club is very visible in this excerpt from the 1850 U.S. Census for Clinton township, Elkhart county, Indiana. Just on one page are neighbors who are actually related by cousinship and/or marriage.

For example, the second full household from top of page is headed by William McKibbin a farmer born in PA, wife born in PA, all children born in Indiana. He's part of the Larimer cousin collection.

Next household down is headed by Alexander McKibbin, a farmer born in PA whose wife was born in Ireland. Yes, part of the McKibbin cousins.

Next-to-last household is headed by James Larimer, a Larimer cousin who's also a farmer. Born in VA, wife from Ohio.

Bottom household is headed by Edward Murray, a farmer born in Ireland, married to Jane McKibbin, also born in Ireland. Yes, this McKibbin is part of the cousin collection.

On other pages of this Census are several other Larimer FAN club members living (and mostly farming) in Clinton township, Indiana in 1850.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Helping Heirs Find Me in Later Census Years

April 1 will be Census Day. Everyone in the United States will be answering a few questions (alas, not many and not too much detail). In 72 years, our genealogical heirs will be able to see our answers and learn something about us. I've added a #CensusDoodle and will scan my printed form before mailing it back, giving future genealogists a head start on my whereabouts in 2020.

Customize this fictitious sample table for yourself! 

It's doubtful future genealogists will be able to find me very easily in some Census records because I married (with a change in name) and I moved...and moved...and moved.

My gift to my genealogy heirs is a simple table showing who and where I was in the Census records. For extra credit, I'll also say who else was in the household. Even if I can't remember exact street addresses, I can say approximately where I was (living in the Bronx, for example, four blocks from a particular subway station)--close enough to help narrow down the proper Enumeration District.

My point is not only to help heirs find me but also to give them details so they can confirm they indeed have the correct person!

Please consider creating a simple table like this and tucking it into your genealogy files. Let's give future genealogists more hints than our ancestors left for us!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

With Luck, 2092 Will See US Census Doodle

My US Census doodle, for 2092 viewing?
Even though there's only a very small possibility that my descendants will see it, I included a Census Doodle on my 2020 U.S. Census form.

I am NOT responding to the Census online or by phone. I want my paper form to be scanned and show my own handwriting plus my doodle.

"Hello 2092! Greetings from 2020" I wrote, from "person 2" (that's me in my household), and a smiling face for personality.

Obviously, it is very possible that paper documents will be shredded after scanning and tabulation. And it is entirely possible the scans will never survive until 2092, when this year's Census is released to the public.

But maybe, with luck, my Census Doodle will survive and send a positive message into the future, to be received 72 years from now by a genealogist looking for me and my family.

Will you add a Census Doodle to be seen by future generations, with luck?

Luck - #52Ancestors prompt for this week!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Two Pages of #FamilyHistory for $130

CD with grandpa Isaac Burk's Alien Registration Form
In November, when dramatically higher fees were proposed for requesting genealogy records from U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the first thing I did was write a strongly-worded protest letter, and copied my legislators.

Then I looked at my family tree and decided to finally obtain USCIS records for my paternal grandfather Isaac Burk (1881?-1943). After all, if the price goes even higher, it will be entirely out of reach. Better to check on Grandpa's records now.

First step: Pay $65 for a Search

I clicked to the USCIS page for genealogy and read the directions. As the page explains, without a case number or other identifier, I needed to pay $65 for the department to search for Grandpa's name in its files. I submitted my request and my credit card number online just before Thanksgiving.

The search was completed in mid-December. USCIS said it had two types of records: C-File (naturalization court records) and AR-2 Form (Alien Registration Form).

Because I've already found Grandpa's naturalization documents (citizenship, petition, and so forth--dating from 1930s through his naturalization in 1942), I decided to send only for his 1940 AR-2 Form.

Second step: Pay another $65 for AR-2--and Wait

After waiting the requisite 24 hours to order documents mentioned in the USCIS letter, I applied online to receive the AR-2, paying another $65 by credit card. The date was December 14, 2019.

Six weeks later, I received two follow-up letters from the USCIS, acknowledging my records request and providing me with a case identification number. One letter said that the results would be mailed to me. The other letter said I would receive the records on a CD.

On March 8, I received an envelope with a CD dated February 26, 2020.

What $130 Buys
AR-2 Form for Isaac Burk

On the CD was a cover note explaining that there were exactly two pages corresponding to my AR-2 Form request.

Also on the CD was an excellent scan of Grandpa's Alien Registration Form, two pages long!

Did I learn anything?
  • Grandpa Isaac said he was born in "Kovna, Russia" which was technically correct--it was within independent Lithuania until 1939, when the area was taken over by the Soviets. Not new news, but confirmation of what he said in some other documents (when he didn't say simply "Russia"). For instance, in one of his naturalization papers, he declared his birthplace as "Kovna, Lithuania."
  • Grandpa Isaac gave his birthday as June 5, 1881. On some other documents, he gave the year as 1882. Maybe I should believe 1881?
  • Grandpa Isaac said he was a "machinist" working for a manufacturer of dress forms. In most older documents, Grandpa's usual occupation was shown as "carpenter, cabinet-maker" with the same or a nearby address for his employer. This dress-forms company was also his employer on his WWII "old man's draft" card...and it was run by an in-law. So this was of interest.
  • Grandpa Isaac said he was a member of the Independent Harlem True Brothers (a benevolent society) since 1916. Grandpa and his wife, Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), were both buried in this society's plot in Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook, NJ. But I hadn't known how long he was with the group, which he obviously joined within a year of settling down in New York City permanently.
This was an expensive experiment that I'm glad I tried but won't repeat. Not enough new information to make two pages worth $130.

IF, however, I didn't know Grandpa's date of immigration, his place of birth, his address at the time, and other details, this could have been more valuable than it turned out to be for me, 22 years after first beginning my search for Grandpa's life story.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Recap of "Apres Vous" #Genchat Discussion Q7

#Genchat question 7 in "Apres Vous" conversation
"Apres Vous" - What Happens to Your Family History Materials?

This is my final post in the series recapping answers to questions in the two-day #genchat Twitter conversation about "Apres Vous," co-hosted by Christine McCloud (@geneapleau) and Liam "Sir Leprachaun Rabbit" (@leprchaunrabbit). It was my honor to be guest expert!

Today's question and summarized answers from #Genchat participants offer an opportunity to consider what our ancestors left to us and the changes we would make if we could turn back time. 

Q7: What would you do differently than your ancestors when planning for the future of your family's history? Participants suggested:
  • Label all photos (identifying people, places, dates, etc.) and keep them safe.
  • Instead of passing down scraps of paper that need to be deciphered, explain the information clearly and as completely as possible.
  • Make notes about heirlooms, beyond who, where, when, and what, to add context (artifact made from special materials or from a special time or place or have special significance?).
  • Keep the collection together rather than scattered all around for heirs to try to find.
  • Write the stories now so they're not lost. 
  • Write the oral histories, in relatives' own words, for future generations to know.
  • Don't throw away old journals and other items.
  • Cite all sources.
  • Add metadata to digitized photos.
  • Shape your research into shareable, concise stories.
  • Actually have a plan for the future of your family history collection.
Come and follow the conversation or tweet your comments during #genchat every other Friday. See the schedule and more information here

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Recap of "Apres Vous" #Genchat Discussion Q6

Genchat question 6 from "Apres Vous" series
"Apres Vous" - What Happens to Your Family History Materials?

Dozens of genealogy enthusiasts joined the #Genchat two-day conversation about what happens to our family history after we join our ancestors. In this series, I've been summarizing the tweeted answers to each question.

Today, I'm posting summarized answers to question #6, as ideas to consider when you think about keeping your family history safe "apres vous."

Q6: What is your top priority for keeping your family's history safe after you join your ancestors? Participants suggested:

  • Choose heirs who care about the family's history and will protect it for the future.
  • Put a digital archive online so it will live on, and let relatives know where it is.
  • Keep collection physically safe and secure (in case of fire, flood, and other potential disasters).
  • Be sure heirs know where collection is housed, key documents/photos in particular.
  • Organize materials so next generation knows what has been researched and can even continue the research.
  • Get online trees in order. Cite sources. 
  • Share stories no one else in family has heard or remembers.
  • Let heirs know to read your comments about family members/ancestors in the future (notes will be private while people are alive, but comments may be funny and meaningful to heirs later).
A BIG thank you to the cohosts of Twitter's #genchat conversations, Christine McCloud (@geneapleau) and Liam "Sir Leprachaun Rabbit" (@leprchaunrabbit). You're the best!

For engaging genealogy conversations on Twitter, please come along and join #genchat every other Friday. The schedule and FAQs are here

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Recap of "Apres Vous" #Genchat Discussion Q5

#Genchat question 5 - "apres vous"
"Apres Vous" - What Happens to Your Family History Materials?

All week, I've been recapping comments from the two #Genchat "apres vous" discussions on Twitter (February 28-29).

Below are the summarized answers to Q5. These participants' ideas are not presented in any particular order. As you make plans for the future of your family history collection, maybe you'll get an idea or two from these answers.

Q5: Can you identify any institutions that might accept some, or all, of your materials, if relatives are not interested? Participants tweeted:
  • Assemble books of family history (and ancestor bios) to donate (in print or electronically) to family history libraries, museums, archives, etc. Cite your sources.
  • Family history libraries can make our family histories available to future researchers and descendants.
  • Consider where ancestors lived/worked, nationality, military duties, etc. when thinking about where to donate for a good match with one or more suitable institutions.
  • Ask family about donating specific items and let family know where materials are donated if you decide to do this.
  • Photograph, document, and annotate before donating anything.
  • Purpose of donating is to keep items safe, especially if family is not interested in inheriting the collection.
  • Match donation to the interests of each institution, which may mean breaking up the collection so items go to the appropriate place.
  • Can donate transcriptions of family Bibles to appropriate institutions.
  • Can donate military pension records to appropriate institutions.
  • Can donate family letters to appropriate institutions.
  • Be sure donated materials are in good condition (not moldy) and well organized so institution can make them available to researchers.
  • If you can fully identify all the items in your collection and share these stories with family, they may decide to keep all in the family.
  • Make a good case for why your material would fit with each institution's collection.
As always, a shout-out to #Genchat co-hosts Liam "Sir Leprachaun Rabbit" (@leprchaunrabbit) and Christine McCloud (@geneapleau). They work very hard behind the scenes to make all chats fun and functional!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Recap of "Apres Vous" #Genchat Discussion Q4

#Genchat discussion question #4 - "Apres Vous"
"Apres Vous" - What Happens to Your Family History Materials?

If you missed the #Genchat discussions on Twitter (February 28-29), you can read brief summaries of the answers in my series this week.

Below are the summarized answers to Q4, not presented in any particular order. They are good starting points to inform your thinking as you make plans for your family history collection "apres vous."

Q4: Who will have your family history materials after you join your ancestors? Participants tweeted:
  • Some potential heirs say "not me" for either the entire collection or specific items/heirlooms. 
  • Some potential heirs really want the collection or a specific item, and now the decision is what to give to each one.
  • Some potential heirs may be more interested as older relatives pass and they recognize how the family is changing over time.
  • Some potential heirs express no interest in learning genealogy software.
  • One or two heirs might be interested, then the rest of collection will be donated to appropriate institutions (archives, library, museum, historical society, local genealogy society, etc.)
  • FamilyTreeMaker allows users to nominate a successor. 
  • WikiTree allows users to include an "advance directive" for their trees.
  • Consider dividing and distributing duplicates and some photos now, leaving other decisions for heirs.
  • Children will get all photos, "whether they like it or not." 
  • Personal items can go in a box marked "save forever."
  • Let heirs know where your DNA results are online and leave passwords so they can access those results.
As always, a shout-out to #Genchat co-hosts Liam "Sir Leprachaun Rabbit" (@leprchaunrabbit) and Christine McCloud (@geneapleau). They work hard to make the chats fun and functional!

You're always invited to join the #genealogy and #FamilyHistory conversation on Twitter. It's free and it's informative.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Recap of "Apres Vous" #Genchat Discussion Q3

"Apres Vous" - What Happens to Your Family History Materials?

Participants had a variety of interesting answers to question #3. This summary presents their ideas in no particular order--some thoughts for you to keep in mind when you are making your own decisions about keeping family history safe "apres vous."

Q3: Should you give any old photos or artifacts to relatives or institutions now? Why or why not? Participants tweeted:
  • Not giving anything away yet, will digitize and distribute some things at a later date, to family and to an appropriate institution.
  • Duplicates can go to other branches of the family, sharing the info more widely.
  • Donating to an institution means documents and photos will be accessible to other researchers in the future.
  • Giving copies of old photos to relatives now, with stories and context, may stimulate more interest in family history.
  • Consider keeping items of personal interest to direct ancestors, but donating items not in direct line to appropriate institutions.
  • Give away some photos when younger relatives are a little older and more interested in hearing about the family'shistory.
  • If donating to an institution, make sure family knows which items have been donated where.
  • If giving to one relative, be sure rest of family knows who has which photos.
  • Consider providing a bio and/or family tree if donating to an institution.
A hearty thank you to Liam "Sir Leprachaun Rabbit" (@leprchaunrabbit) and Christine McCloud (@geneapleau) for hosting #genchat every other Friday. I had fun serving as guest expert for this "apres vous" two-day conversation on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Recap of "Apres Vous" #Genchat Discussion Q2

#Genchat discussion "Apres Vous" question #2

"Apres Vous" - What Happens to Your Family History Materials?

Lots of activity on Twitter during this recent #Genchat two-day conversation about what happens to our family history after we join our ancestors!

The answers to question #2, summarized and listed below, are starting points to keep in mind as you approach your own decisions about keeping family history safe "apres vous."

Q2: How can you organize your family history collection now, with future generations in mind? Participants suggested:
  • Have information in one place, make it easy to understand (don't use your own shorthand and expect heirs to understand it).
  • Consider putting documents into binders, organized and with tables of contents, to keep things together and safe. 
  • Another idea is to use archival boxes, organized and with contents pages as a "finding aid" for the collection.
  • Use a consistent organization system for paper and digital information.
  • Weed out unimportant "junk" so collection is not a burden to heirs. This may help keep entire collection out of the trash later on.
  • Consider whether your organizational system is "self-explanatory" to next generation.
  • Label everything, identify people in photos, and indicate which side of the family tree your photos belong to.
  • Put photos and originals into archival sleeves. Label all!
  • Write about each heirloom, describe it, whose it was, the context, why it is treasured, how it came into the family and into your possession.
  • Create a "treasure map" so heirs know what is where.
  • Inform family of what other heirlooms/photos are in the hands of other relatives and/or institutions.
  • Write the year in four digits, 3/2/2020 instead of 3/2/20, for clarity.
Many thanks to Christine McCloud (@geneapleau) and Liam "Sir Leprachaun Rabbit" (@leprchaunrabbit) for hosting lively #genchat conversations every other Friday. It was a privilege to be involved in the "Apres Vous" discussion!

You can drop in and follow the conversation or add your thoughts during #genchat every other Friday. See the schedule and more information here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Recap of "Apres Vous" #Genchat Discussion Q1

#Genchat question from February 28-29, 2020 conversations
If you missed the first-ever double #Genchat on Twitter on February 28-29, this is a quick recap of the insightful and interesting discussion of question #1 on both days. Future blog posts will recap other questions and answers.

Thank you to Christine McCloud (@geneapleau) and Liam "Sir Leprachaun Rabbit" (@leprchaunrabbit) for hosting these fun, fast-paced tweeted conversations every other Friday. Here's a full schedule of 2020 #genchat topics.

"Apres Vous" - What Happens to Your Family History Materials?

The topic was "apres vous" and the chats included an icebreaker question plus seven questions to spark conversation.

It was an honor for me to serve as guest expert for the two days. I learned a lot from the participants on multiple continents, and I've really enjoyed participating in the ongoing conversation, too. This is such an important topic for everyone in the genealogy world, one that's worthy of continued discussion and consideration.

Following is a brief recap of participants' answers, summarized from their tweets. Food for thought as you make your own decisions about "apres vous."

Q1: What should you consider when planning to pass family history materials to the next generation? Participants suggested:

  • Label everything, physical and digital.
  • Label, date, provide context for photos, heirlooms, and other items.
  • Identify memorabilia with family-history significance.
  • Create a spreadsheet and number all items to correspond to spreadsheet numbering.
  • Consider whether the person who will inherit your family-history collection has space to store it properly.
  • Consider how to organize the collection so it makes sense to heirs.
  • Try to keep collection together in one place.
  • Consider separating items to go to different heirs, depending on their interests.
  • Consider who in family would value the collection and keep it safe.
  • Consider who would have the motivation and the interest to inherit the collection.
  • Keep the stories alive, in a blog or a book/photobook or by telling them over and over.
  • Record the source of your stories, photos, and memorabilia.
  • Tell the new generation stories about people who are no longer with us.
  • Share your passwords to genealogy sites with your heirs.
  • Consider what is worth passing down to next generation and what is really trash.
  • Inventory your genealogy collection and include the location of each item. 
  • Some folks keep most important items in safe deposit box. Tell people where.

Recap of Q2 coming soon!