Wednesday, January 28, 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #4 - "Closest to Your Birthday" - ME!!!

The theme this week is to write about an ancestor closest to your birthday. I am simultaneously participating in the Genealogy Do-Over. Week #2 of the Do-Over had us "interview" ourselves  and then write a biography. I decided to combine the two tasks and write about MYSELF.

WARNING: THIS IS A LONG POST. I won't be offended if you decide not to read it :-)

I could have written "just the facts, Ma'am" but - that's not my style. If I was going to write about myself, I wanted the reader to learn who I am, what I am about. After all, that's what I aspire to in my family history research. I want to "know" the person and a listing of vital statistics just doesn't cut it.

So - if you have the time - make yourself a cup of tea or coffee...pour yourself a beer or a glass of wine. Sit down and find out who I am.

Oh - and there aren't any pictures - sorry - I figured the post was long enough!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #3 - Sophie Weiss Spiegel - A Strong Woman

Sophie as a young girl
Sophie Weiss was my maternal great-grandmother. Although she was quite wealthy at points in her life, I knew things had not always been easy thanks to stories my mother had shared with me. I also have many unanswered questions about Sophie’s life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over: Step #2 - Where I'm at now

Topic: Setting Research Goals
As Week #2 closes, I have made some decisions:
1) I will think of the Do-Over weeks as steps instead of weeks.
2) I will recreate my tree, beginning with me
3) As I add each new person to the tree, I will :
  • gather, scan/photograph, record and file all documents I have for the individual
  • use the research log to track what I have done
  • enter information into RootsMagic, completing citations as noted on log
  • complete the "to-do" list as I go along - these will become research goals in the future
4)  As the Do-Over progresses, I will review recent work and incorporate the new skills/techniques.

Doing all the above for one individual, then moving to the next person, rather doing a global sort/reorganize seems to be a better match for me. I need to see the results from applying my newly learned (relearned) skills. 

Here's a Before and After of my digital files for my 3rd great-grandfather, Aaron Lazarus Samuel:


You'll notice a few things from this reorganization:
  1.  There are more files in the AFTER folder. That's because I went through ALL my digital folders and moved all relevant files to this new folder. 
  2. There's a shorter path to get to Aaron's folder.
  3. The FIRST file in the AFTER folder is the Genealogy Research Log for this person. I put an underscore _ as the first character to force it to the top (Learned this from a Do-Over post!)
  4. The old folder for Aaron (inside the HOLD Genealogy folder) is now colored red. I used Folder Maker to differentiate this finished folder from the others.(Learned about the Folder Maker program from the Do-Over.) Once my Do-Over is completed and I'm sure I don't need the old information, I'll delete the old folders.

Aaron Samuel Folder -AFTER

HOLD Genealogy folder - AFTER

Topic: Conducting Self Interview
RootsMagic has a pretty comprehensive list of facts you can associate with each person in the database. After entering myself into my new file, I completed as many of the facts as were applicable to my life. This went fairly quickly as I wasn't slowed down by the tedious completion of citations. The only citation I used was "Personal Knowledge!" On my to-do list, I listed the need to the acquire the documents related to my life 

I did enter the names of my parents, my direct paternal ancestors (the men only), my step-dad and my siblings as I knew I was going to focus on my 3rd Great-Grandfather, Aaron Lazarus Samuel and my step-dad, Alfonse Falcone for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.

Topic: Conducting Family Interviews
So much for watching the video of my Mom. We recently got a new flat-screen TV and apparently my husband hasn't hooked up the VCR! I am also going to resend the interview questions I originally sent out years ago. This time, I will expand the list of recipients to my cousins as well as others who may have relevant information to contribute. This will have to wait until I return from my vacation. 

Hopefully, I will be rested and reinvigorated, ready to resume the Do-Over!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #2 - Alfonse Falcone - King (of the family, malapropisms, and the bad joke.)

Alfonse Falcone at a New Haven hockey game 
This week's topic was somewhat difficult - King? I wasn't sure who in our family best fit that title. I decided my step-father, Alfonse (Alphonse) Falcone best fit the bill. "Alfie" entered my life when he met my mother shortly after her divorce in 1962. My father had left my mother with four little girls to raise, ranging in age from 7 (me) to 1. As my mother (Doris Lichtenthal) told me, "Once we (she and Al) met we were inseparable." By 1968, they had a son, had married and set about raising my sisters and brother, along with Al's three children from his previous marriage. In my opinion. Alfie was a "king" of a man- a lesser man would never have taken on such a challenge.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over: Week #2 - THE PLAN


1) Setting Research Goals
I decided not to focus on making any goals specifically related to individuals. Presently, my goal is to clean up the mess I have created over the past few years: information w/o sources cited, multiple databases, several folders of duplicate files and - most annoying of all - no particular file organization. I have already found inconsistent information on the very  FIRST person whose files I chose to work on. Once identified, I am adding these "inconsistencies" to my new "To-Do" excel spreadsheet.
(Thanks, Eileen Coulter for posting Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Research Log.xls to the Do-Over's FB Files page:

This process is going to take quite a while. I spent the better part of yesterday just cleaning up my 3rd Great-grandfather's folder!

 2) Conducting Self Interview
After creating a brand-new file in RootsMagic, I "interviewed" myself. I can ramble on for hours, so to keep focused, I simply used the "Fact Type" options available in RootsMagic (Birth, Education, Residence, Marriage, etc.) The options available pretty much sum up one's lifespan. Hopefully, I have a few good years left and will remember to continually add facts to my my file as they occur.

3) Conducting Family Interviews
Sadly, both my parents are gone and pretty much every aunt and uncle as well. A few years back, I sent interview questions to my 10 siblings - step-sibs included. I got back 3! I plan to resend to the others again. What I'm really looking forward to is tonight. Several years ago my oldest daughter interviewed my Mom on video. I plan to revisit that video this evening. Mom passed away 3 years ago, so that video is pretty special.

So - that's my plan this week. Let's see what I accomplish!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #1 -Aaron Lazarus Samuel - A Fresh Start

I only made it to Week 18 of last year's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks". (I have all kinds of excuses, but I'll spare you the experience of listening to me whine.) I'm going to try again. This year I'm combining the 52 Weeks challenge with Thomas MacEntee's "Genealogy Do-Over."

For 2015, there are weekly themes associated with each of the 52 weeks. Appropriately, Week One is "A Fresh Start." So - who to choose?? I decided to choose my 3rd Great-Grandfather, Aaron Lazarus Samuel , who was the first of my father's direct line to arrive in the United States. I checked last year's blog posts for any mention of Aaron. Turns out he was the first post in last year's 52 Ancestor's challenge!! Come on! Seriously? Yup - last year I chose the "ancestor" by closest birth-date to the posting date. Aaron was born on January 4, 1824.

What to do.....? I'm sticking with Aaron. This post will focus on his "fresh start" in the United States as well as an opportunity to revisit and "do-over" my previous research related to him.

So here goes.......

Friday, January 9, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over: Week One - January 1-8 - My Golden Rules

Here's my Progress this first week:

The first thing I did was create "My Golden Rules of Genealogy"

My Golden Rules of Genealogy:
  1. Schedule a set time to work - no less than 30 minutes a session
  2. Be consistent
  3. Touch it ONCE! Put it where it should go - permanently
  4. Use a research log - use Apps
  5. Create To-Do lists to avoid getting distracted 
  6. keep it handy as I research
  7. Look at the whole picture - go deeper
  8. Remember "Pickholtz' Rules" (Israel Pickholz' rules to verify data)
  9. Share...and ask for help
  10. Don't quit - it's OK to skip a "work-date"
I then began to think about the three topics posed this week:

1. Setting Previous Research Aside

  • I decided to leave all hard copies, binders, etc. where they are
  • I renamed my genealogy folder as "Hold Genealogy" and created a new one in preparation for what I find during the Do-Over.
  • I created a new file on RootsMagic and started inputting info beginning with myself.

2. Preparing to Research

  • Have a plan - before beginning a research session, I will determine my "problem"/objective/goal
  • Have RootsMagic open
  • Have Evernote open (use research template on Evernote)

3. Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

I am adopting Thomas' suggestions (Thomas MacEntee of Hack Genealogy is the originator of this Do-Over):
  • track all work, even dead ends, negative evidence and non-productive searches 
  • cite sources, even if in a rudimentary manner to note the “what, where and when” information about a record 
  • make the “first pass the only pass” which means slow down and spend as much time as needed on a document or source and wring every bit of information out of it.
I'm a little overwhelmed by the process. But, I'll hang in there and see how it goes.

Next Week's Topics:
 1) Setting Research Goals, 2) Conducting Self Interview, and 3) Conducting Family Interviews


Last year, I participated in the blog challenge “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” posed by Amy Johnson Crow ( The idea was to post about an ancestor every week. I took up the challenge for two reasons: to share some of the research I had gathered over the past few years and to help me concentrate on one person at a time.

I made it to week 18 then lost my focus when my grandson (and summer) arrived. So, I’m trying again this year! In addition, I am participating in the Genealogy Do-Over ( organized by Thomas MacEntee.

The “Do-Over” is a 13 week “program” with tasks designed to help participants develop a “firm foundation in genealogy and family history research skill building.” For those of us who began our “genealogical journey” years ago, this is a great opportunity to review our past work and ensure we are using “best practices.” I hope to improve my skills in the areas of citing sources, keeping better records of my searches, cleaning up my digital files and verifying my research is accurate.

Let's see how 2015 plays out!!