Monday, June 11, 2012

Cleaning Up The Alphabet - Lessons Learned

In December, I started a project to clean up my genealogy database. I chose to look at each person in my database alphabetically and search for missing citations as well as missing records. I made the goal to look at 5 ancestors each day, analyzing what I had and find new information. I was amazed at how many new documents I was able to find, how many photos of tombstones I found and how many missing surnames were within my database.

As the project comes to a close, I'd like to share a few things that I learned:
  • Organizing alphabetically was the right approach for me. I found that I really wanted to get through my main surnames quickly and didn't spend enough time analyzing everything I had on each person. On the other hand, I spent more time tracking down the missing information about people who had married into my family. Something about the disconnect for everyone else let me focus on the individual and not rush.
  • Sorting through every person gets very confused. I would find people with one of my surnames in books about counties far, far away from where they lived. Looking at everyone made me forget who I was actually seeking. Next time (maybe in a few years) I think I will separate the project into my grandparents or great-grandparents. Then I will be able to focus on the places more than the names.
  • It was a great way to start the day. I knew that every day I needed to look at 5 ancestors. Many days I did more depending on the time frame and how much information I could reasonably expect to find on people. Of course some days I struggled to get it done when I was fortunate enough to hit a gold mine of information. And I didn't stress when I didn't have time for my 5 ancestors every so often. But it got me into the habit of doing something small with my genealogy each day (AKA more projects coming).
So what's next? I was going to take a break, but I found that I like doing something each day. So here are my future projects.
  • Cleaning up place names in my database. I'm really bad about making sure that I have the right county on a certain date in history before I enter it into my database. This is especially true of my colonial New England lines. Probably because I'm not as invested in the research on those families and have used family histories to fill in those lines. So I ran County Check in Roots Magic 5 and am fixing a page of errors a day (about a dozen). 
  • 1940 Census. I'm going to wait for the 1940 census to be completely indexed and then go back through my tree alphabetically and (hopefully) find everyone.
  • Husband's tree. When I started this project, I planned to start organizing my husband's tree when I finished mine. But I'm going to wait until the 1940 census is indexed before I start his tree. That way I don't have to go back through it later.
What are you doing to clean up your genealogy database?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cleaning Up The Letter Z

I've started a project cleaning up my database. Whenever I finish a letter of the alphabet, I'll write a blog post to report about what I learned about the surnames that start with that letter.

The letter Z left me without any new discoveries. Which is fine since I am still working on all the discoveries when I went through the W surnames.

The alphabet organization is done! So glad that I did this and I plan to do at least one wrap up next week.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cleaning Up The Letter Y

I've started a project cleaning up my database. Whenever I finish a letter of the alphabet, I'll write a blog post to report about what I learned about the surnames that start with that letter.

The letter Y gave me no problems. It helps to have only 4 people with a Y surname in your database. I did delete one of them though. I had added a father to Mary Margaret Young based on a cousin's research. But since it didn't have any sources, I deleted him.

One more letter to go!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cleaning Up The Letter W

I've started a project cleaning up my database. Whenever I finish a letter of the alphabet, I'll write a blog post to report about what I learned about the surnames that start with that letter.

So I thought that the W surnames in my database would be a breeze. For the most part, these people married someone earlier in the alphabet and I had already looked for additional information about them. I couldn't have been more wrong.

It started off by finding a few deaths and marriages for the Warren women in my tree since I had neglected to search for them under their married names in the Massachusetts and Connecticut published vital records.

Then I got to Eleazer Washburn, son of my fifth great grandparents Eleazer Washburn and Rachel Paulk. One of those shaky leaves appeared and I found images of the Springfield, Massachusetts vital records on This led to finding the birth records of Eleazer and his brother Roswell along with the marriage of their parents, Eleazer and Rachel. Now that I had a new record set, I searched for more Washburns (didn't find any), but I found what I presumed to be the Paulk family. Some internet searches on the Paulk family led me to two journal articles detailing the family of Rachel's mother back to Massachusetts in 1666. I still need to analyze the article and add it to my database.

Then started reviewing the information I had for Harriet Washburn. A family history had told me that she was the daughter of Eleazer and Rachel, born after the migrated to Ohio. Another shaky leaf lead me to census records after her marriage to William Flick/Fleak. Analyzing the tally marks on the 1820 and 1830 census for Eleazer, I realized that she didn't fit into the family. Some research into the older woman living with her in 1850 showed that she was actually Eleazer's niece and the daughter of James Washburn. A few searches later and I had found another article detailing the family back 2 generations and leading to another article about the Mayflower. I still need to deal with all of that information.

I finally make it through the Washburn family, finding the marriage of Flora Washburn to James Russell on 21 October 1891 in Ross County, Ohio and following them to Lewis County, Washington where she died in 1930.

The next find came when I started reviewing the Weiss family in Heimbach, Germany. I realized that I had only found my direct line in the German indexes on FamilySearch. And even those I hadn't tried very hard to get back another generation. So I found the Weiss family and its collateral lines in the indexes and will at some point order the microfilm and get the original records. Then I realized that I had probably never done the same thing on the Bank family in Bleichheim, Germany. No wonder I could never find them. They were actually the Von Bank family. So there were some more branches added to the tree.

I had also neglected the Westrich family in Bruecken, Germany. They got the same treatment with the same results. But then I got shaky leaves telling me that Jacob Westrich and Anna Margaretha Huber immigrated to Ohio. I still need to do the research on this information, but if it's true, it means that my immigrant ancestor had both sets of grandparents in America when he crossed the Atlantic.

Again, I thought I could sail through the rest of the Ws. But I was wrong again. I found the 1810 and 1820 censuses for Andrew Works. Not sure why I never looked for these before. I also found the probate for his probable father, Joseph, in Owen County, Kentucky. Andrew reportedly died in 1824, but I didn't find any probate for him. It looks like I'll be having some more fun in deed records to make sure I have the right guy.

And finally I was done with the W surnames. I can't believe how much I found and it will take me all summer to finished analyzing everything I found. No X names, so just 2 letters left.