Now, Where Did I Put That……………………?

It use to be much worse than this. I will admit I do have one box on the floor of records that have to be looked into and researched.

It use to be much worse than this. I will admit I do have one box on the floor of records that have to be looked into and researched.

What you see shown above is part of my workspace. It was much worse. In fact over the last few years it has gotten much better. Instead of boxes and file drawers full of papers and records surrounded by hills of paper about to collapse this is all that is left. Well mostly. I would like to try and explain how I have formed my genealogy file system. I would like to say at the start of this explanation that my system is not the best nor is it a bad one. It is a system that works for me and may also work for you in whole or in part. But in any case we all need a system that we can work with so we can get on with discovering our family history.

I keep both a digital and paper record. I know many people use mostly digital and very little paper, but I have decided against that. No one can say how we will be keeping our digital records twenty-five years from now. Look what has come and gone or is on the way out. Microfilm, fiche, floppy disk, recordable disk, and flash drives. Audio and visual recordings have the same history of what has come and gone. Paper, however, has been around for hundreds of years and will last much longer than any digital recording I can think of. Digital records, are neat and take up very little room. Paper can also be organized neatly and the room it takes can be managed. The picture below shows two of my three binders that hold over 500 family records. I will soon start a census binder as I have not done much with filing those records.

Two of my binders I use to store family records. Notice that each record has a number given to it. You can see them in the lower left hand corner. These numbers are used to keep track of the records and who they go to.

Two of my binders I use to store family records. Notice that each record has a number given to it. You can see them in the lower left hand corner. These numbers are used to keep track of the records and who they go to.

I do not keep a paper binder for each family. I simply give each record a number and file it away in numerical order. Since I work on both my family lines and those of my wife, this helps keep the number of binders to a minimum. I use an Excel spreadsheet and enter each number into that file. Next I put in what type of record or Document that goes with the number. Then I enter the family name and or the family members that are named on the document. This makes it very easy to search who goes with each record. For example, if I want to know which records belong to the Moore family, I put Moore into the find option, and it will bring me to each Moore file. I then can go to the binder and look over the record. I also have started to scan the records into a file which will do the same. These are also saved to a cloud by a service that I use.

I use the Family Tree Maker 2014 from ancestry.com. I tell you this not as a recommendation (however I do like it) but to let you know what I use to record my family tree. When I enter a source into the program, the first item is the number given to that record. So once more it relates right back to the paper file and my binders. I find this is also best for me as I work on my family history book. I can find the records I need and can give them the proper citation. I also find this shows where I need to improve my documentation, so I can be as sure as possible I have the correct facts.

This is File number 209. This shows the birth of my Great Uncle Harry, with my Great Grandparents Bessie Barney and Abner Bonnett. The number 209 makes it very easy to look up as it follows this record either on paper or digital.

This is File number 209. This shows the birth of my Great Uncle Harry, with my Great Grandparents Bessie Barney and Abner Bonnett. The number 209 makes it very easy to look up as it follows this record either on paper or digital.

This is a print out of  the Excel spreadsheet that I use. The first column is the record number given to that record. Next what type of record is it. Then I show the names given in the record. All of this can be searched in the program and used very quickly.

This is a print out of the Excel spreadsheet that I use. The first column is the record number given to that record. Next what type of record is it. Then I show the names given in the record. All of this can be searched in the program and used very quickly.

This has been a short explanation of my genealogy filing system. I would like to hear from you on your system and how you keep it all organized. Also, if you have any comments, suggestions or questions please note them. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Family Feuds Or The Spice Of Genealogy

From left to right. Back Row; Pauline Bonnett, Florence Bonnett and Claude Bonnett.  Front Row Harry Bonnett, Bessie Barney Bonnett, Verna Bonnett, and Mary Guyette Barney Douglas. Picture taken about 1913.

From left to right. Back Row; Pauline Bonnett, Florence Bonnett and Claude Bonnett. Front Row Harry Bonnett, Bessie Barney Bonnett, Verna Bonnett, and Mary Guyette Barney Douglas. Picture taken about 1913.

The pictures in this post were an incredible find. I obtained them by contacting a person who had a family tree listed in ancestry.com. While it was not very complete, it held some information that caught my interest. I sent a request to the tree owner asking if we could exchange information. I believe this is something we all should do as it helps us all in our genealogy research. I cannot understand why some of us are so reluctant to share our information. This time however I hit the genealogy jackpot. I was soon put in touch with Julia, who was the keeper of the family records. She was to send me old family letters, pictures, property transfer records, and newspaper articles. What she gave me that was more important than all of those things was a lesson in my family’s history.

The picture above shows my twice great grandmother, my great grandmother, and my grandmother. It also shows my great aunts and uncles. However my Great Aunt Florence, who is standing next to my Grandmother Pauline, was a relative I had never known. It would be her little branch of the family tree that would in time move to Texas. It was from Texas back to New York that the flow of information would come to me.

Feuds are not new to any family. I think I can say this without exception that all families have them. If you think your family might have immunity, I will advise you to dig deeper. In fact, my Great Grandmother Bessie and her mother my twice Great Grandmother Mary had their feud. I learned about this in the family letters that Julia sent to me. Mary was to write how it hurt her when she met her daughter Bessie on the street she would turn her head or cross the street to avoid being on the same side. From what I can tell by the dates of the letters the dispute was never settled as Bessie died in the 1918 flu epidemic just a few months after having a child.

From left to right. Florence Bonnett and Pauline Bonnett Picture taken about 1908

From left to right.
Florence Bonnett and Pauline Bonnett
Picture taken about 1908

What caused the family fight with my Great Aunt Florence and the rest of the family can be summed up in one-word money. From what Julia was able to tell me (Florence was her mother-in-law) Florence borrowed some money from her Grandmother Mary. Mary was a strong-willed person, and I heard many stories about her from My Great Uncle Harry and my Grandmother Pauline. She raised all of Bessie’s children after she died, except for the one born in 1918. Florence was already married (at age 14) at the time of her mother’s death, and was already making her own home. My Grandmother Pauline was married less than a month before her mother’s death, so both sisters were on their own. It seems that Florence was slow in paying back the money to Mary, her mother and I believe not all of it was paid back. Then in the early 1940s Mary signed over her house to Pauline and her husband. This may ( I think it did) have caused some hard feelings within the family, especially between Pauline and her sister Florence. It all came to a finale act in 1946 at the death of Mary. As was the custom then the wake was being held in the home. Florence had driven up from New York City to Plattsburgh, N.Y. a distance of about 300 miles. When she got to the front door of the family home, she was not allowed to enter and pay her respects to her mother. She ended up having to go back home without seeing her mother or anyone for that matter. As far as I know no other contact was ever made.

How far did this go? Let me give you two examples. When Florence died in 1965, she was still living in N.Y. State. I was 14 at the time. My mother, grandmother and all the aunts and uncles that lived near and in Plattsburgh, N.Y. never once spoke about it. At least when I was around. I would have remembered as I would have been learning about a sister I never knew my grandmother had or about my mother’s aunt. My mother died in 2007. By that time, I had had this information for a few years. I never told anyone about it. I wanted to see if it would come out on its own. However the last year of my mother’s life she was very sick and failing. While for many reasons we have not been close we started talking with each other, thanks to the efforts of my sister. My mother had a very clear mind and was able to tell me much family history. However, her Aunt Florence never came up. I did everything I could to get her to talk about her. Leading questions, and asking about grandma’s brothers and sisters. She never admitted to the existence of Florence.

Left to right Warren Tromblee and Florence Bonnett Tromblee Taken about 1942 / 1943

Left to right
Warren Tromblee and Florence Bonnett Tromblee
Taken about 1942 / 1943


The lessons I learned from all of this, are many. Genealogy wise it reinforced in me the importance of looking everywhere for family clues. Then we must follow up on what we find. We all hold information that can be so helpful to someone else doing research on the family. It is not our information to own but is to be shared so we all can learn. I am very thankful to the Tromblee family that they posted on ancestry.com and were so willing to share. They have given me family treasures that I hope are passed down for many generations.

One more lesson could be learned from this. Most family feuds and arguments are pure folly. Everyone involved in this dispute is dead. At the end when you think about it, what did it matter? Family lines lost, scattered, and unknown to each other. That is the legacy of this feud.

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A Day In The Life Of…………………………

My dog Chip knows how to spend a cold and snowy winter day. Here he is wrapped up in a throw quilt my wife made for me. He got good use of it all day.

My dog Chip knows how to spend a cold and snowy winter day. Here he is wrapped up in a throw quilt my wife made for me. He got good use of it all day.

The Last few days have brought cold weather with temperatures falling below zero. Yesterday we got about eight inches of snow with blowing wind. These conditions have the effect of making the snow harder to deal with and just making it feel colder outside. So I have spent the last few days inside doing things that I enjoy. This has gotten me to thinking about what would a future descendant learn about me if they could observe my day. I mean besides that I ate Maypo for breakfast and a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. Well, they would learn that I overindulge my dog, and I like to watch birds on my birdfeeder. If they take a look around they would see bookshelves full of books read, so they would know I like to read. They will see pictures of family and mementos of times and places that have meaning for me. They would even see that I like to go to online auction sites. But would they really know me and be able to tell my story?

Birdfeeder right outside my kitchen window. I get visitors all day long.

Birdfeeder right outside my kitchen window. I get visitors all day long.

People are a complex mixture of thoughts, emotions, likes, and dislikes. If we were to pick out a stranger and follow them for a complete day while studying their every action and noting their every utterance, we still would not know that person. The same would hold true if we did it for a week, a month or even a year. Certainly we would know them better, but I believe not even close to complete. Years of living together does not bring understanding either. Look at the many examples we know of siblings, not getting along or parents and children are not getting along because of a lack of understanding.

In our genealogy endeavors, we try to break down that barrier of just adding dates of births, marriages, and deaths. We try to do better than a list of children born and perhaps an occupation or residence. We want to know our ancestor’s story and what they were like as people. So we dig and hunt in records and newspapers to find hints that may let us know who they truly were. Sometimes we are lucky, and we find an insight into our ancestor. This can take hours of research and putting these elusive puzzle pieces in the right places. Then we tell their stories. We tell them with pride, shame, and sometimes with amusement. I have read about slave owners and abolitionist. Men or women who abandon their families. Ancestors who worked on the family farm or gave up everything to save the family business. Others who ended up in prison or were in law enforcement. Indian fighters and Quakers. Ancestors who were patriots or loyalist in the Revolutionary War. They were surprised that their ancestor fought for the North or the South in the Civil War. But in truth we know very little about them. Pieces of their puzzle will always be missing and misunderstood.

The best we can ever hope for is to tell the facts as we know them and make the best guesses we can about them. But always being mindful of the fact that we are at best only making guesses about who they are and why they took certain actions or inactions. Beyond the facts, we must be honest with ourselves and others when we stray and start making conclusions about them. But with all this being said that for me is one of the truly fun aspects of family history. Telling their stories is what helps bring them to life for future generations, even if only a shadow of the real person.

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Throw Back Thursday: Our First Christmas Tree

Our first Christmas Tree.

Our first Christmas Tree.

Here it is our first Christmas tree that my wife and I picked out for our celebration. It was short, squat, crooked, and not well shaped. We knew it was going to be a problem as soon as we got it home. The tree had to be tilted in the tree stand just to give it the illusion of being straight. If you look closely at the picture you can see two wires from the wall tied to the tree to hold it up. The part of the tree against the wall was sparse, which was nice as the tree did not intrude too far into our living room. As I said this was our first Christmas, and this year will mark our 43rd. Every one of them has had that magic spirit, but this is the one that initiated our family’s Christmas traditions.

Does your family know about your past Christmases? If not or if a happy retelling is in order, what better time to do it? While I still believe in Santa Clause, I also believe genealogy starts with family stories.

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Mildred’s Family Has Been Found

This is Mildred. The picture was taken about 1936.

This is Mildred. The picture was taken about 1936.

The picture you see above had been stored in a box for well over 50 years. It is from the collection of pictures and other items my wife, and I found when we cleaned out her parents home well over ten years ago. I have been slowly placing names and histories to these items. Each one is a challenge but brings its rewards when the mystery is solved.

This picture was a little easier as it had a name very lightly written on the back. It was not a family name, and no one seemed to know her. I took a guess that it was a picture taken for a school graduation. My wife’s mother had graduated from Plattsburgh State Normal School in the year 1939. I found a website that had copies of the “Cardinal” yearbooks, from the Plattsburgh State Normal School. I found Mildred in the 1936 edition. I was now certain how and why my mother-in-law had her picture.

This is the year book page I found on-line.

This is the year book page I found on-line.

Citation

My next step was to search my favorite on-line digital newspaper sites. After several days of looking I finally found Mildred. The news articles traced a life in print. Marriage, births and in the end deaths. By reading these articles, I got to know Mildred and her family. I also discovered that she died just this year at the age of 100. I learned that she put her teaching degree to good use teaching until she retired in 1977. Then she volunteered for Literacy Volunteers for many years after. Her husband died in 1975. They had one daughter and at the time of Mildred’s death three grandchildren.

I was able to contact the daughter, and she seemed very happy to be able to get the photograph. All in all, it took me a few hours research spread out over a month to be able to do this. I get a great feeling when I can restore these items to their families. So I have done my genealogy good deed, and I encourage you to try and do the same.

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Something To Look For.

Daryl (my cousin and a Dakin family expert)  on the left and me to the right. We are at the monument for those lost at sea.

Daryl (my cousin and a Dakin family expert) on the left and me to the right. We are at the monument for those lost at sea.

Many people who take up genealogy know about the many records that we can explore. We can look up anything from birth and death records to church records, marriage records, military records, and the list can go on and on. However one item that has escaped me until this summer were records that are on public display in almost any town you can think of. They are in government buildings, in public parks, in churches, and most any place that people will gather. They are there for you to see and use at will. I am talking about memorials that list names for many reasons. When visiting the towns where your ancestors lived it would be prudent to keep an eye out for these memorial records.

This summer I traveled to Digby, Nova Scotia, the home of many of my ancestors. By the waterfront, I noticed a memorial to the many people that had been lost at sea. They had many as Digby is well known for it’s fishing fleets. I found many names from my family being honored.

The memorial to the men lost at sea.

The memorial to the men lost at sea.

Part of the long list of men lost at sea. People from my family are listed.

Part of the long list of men lost at sea. People from my family are listed.

I also found the same in a local church. Seeing the names somehow made the place less unknown and a feeling that I belonged in some small way.

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World War One memorial in the Trinity Anglican Church in Digby, N.S.. Founded in 1788.

World War One memorial in the Trinity Anglican Church in Digby, N.S.. Founded in 1788.

Downtown Digby also had a memorial to it’s soldiers of World War Two. Here also were familiar names.

World War Two memorial. This is in the center of town.

World War Two memorial. This is in the center of town.

In Haverhill Ma. I also found memorials with names on them. Here is a Korean War Memorial. Seeing one’s ancestors name here could be a major find for someone.

Korean War Memorial in Haverhill, Ma. Names of donors and veterans are on each brick.

Korean War Memorial in Haverhill, Ma. Names of donors and veterans are on each brick.

Those who did not make it back.

Those who did not make it back.

Even in my hometown of Plattsburgh, N.Y. I found names all around one our monuments.

From the steps of city hall you can see the Macdonough Monument. It has a giant Eagle with it's wings spread on top. This commemorates the American Victory in  the Battle of Plattsburgh. Fought during the War of 1812

From the steps of city hall you can see the Macdonough Monument. It has a giant Eagle with it’s wings spread on top. This commemorates the American Victory in the Battle of Plattsburgh. Fought during the War of 1812

These stones are all around the monument. What a find they might be for someone.

These stones are all around the monument. What a find they might be for someone.

I firmly believe that when visiting old hometowns and places that our ancestors lived and died, it would do well to keep a look out for these memorials. They could give you a clue that is needed to get more information. They may not be as good as a death certificate. They will not give you all the answers you need. But they just might be the key you need to open that door to getting to know your ancestors a little better.

Here is one more picture I took a few years ago. It is of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Engraved into the wall is the name of my cousin.

My cousin's name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

My cousin’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

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Throw Back Thursday; A Boy And His Tractor

My Aunt Verna in the back and my Mother Veronica in front. What a pair!

My Aunt Verna in the back and my Mother Veronica in front. What a pair!

I had been working on organizing some old family photographs when I came across these photographs. They were taken in 1955 at Macomb Park, Schuyler Falls, N.Y.. Great care was taken in writing the date and place these pictures were taken. Because of this I know this was the eighth wedding anniversary for my parents and my Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Verna. They were married in a double ceremony. No names were noted, and I will take care of that detail.

My mother and her sister Verna were very close. They could argue with the best of them, but don’t ever come between them. I use to stay at my aunt and uncle’s place for about a week each summer. I always had a good time and looked forward to the visit each summer. One summer my aunt introduced me to the great taste of tuna fish sandwiches. My mother who could not stand the smell of any fish claimed my aunt did that to get at her. When I made a tuna fish sandwich at home, I had to very carefully rinse out the can and clean all the dishes used. I could not leave a trace of tuna anywhere.

I seem to be deep in thought on my toy tractor. Perhaps I was wondering when the food was going to be ready.

I seem to be deep in thought on my toy tractor. Perhaps I was wondering when the food was going to be ready.

Aunt Verna showing how the tractor should be ridden.

Aunt Verna showing how the tractor should be ridden.

Our family had many such picnics as pictured here. The were great times, and I am happy to say I have many pictures of them.

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