Robert James Shea

This is just your friendly reminder to don’t forget to look at  the times that shaped your ancestors. I’ve been delving deeper into the background of my Great-Grandfather Robert Shea entering the Michigan State Hospital in Howell–including looking into the records of the Michigan Tuberculosis Association held by the Michigan State University Archives. The association coordinated the state’s efforts to get rejected (due to TB) World War I soldiers into treatment. And while trying to get a better understanding of their campaign, I ran into notes specifically about my Great-Grandfather!

The background information into the response to the TB epidemic in Michigan is extremely helpful to understanding how my family was shaped by the disease and more than worth the search, finding references to my Grandfather was just a fabulous bonus.

In related news my presentation for the 2018 Abram’s Foundation Family History Seminar next month is “TB in the Family Tree.”  David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society is the featured speaker for the event. Join us!

Happy hunting,

Jess

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20180602_151241So, in the realm of way overdue… I’m jumping back into the blog and I want to start out by saying a HUGE thank you to everyone who made my first national conference presentation a success last month at NGS. That includes fellow speakers, WMGS family and friends, Michigan Genealogical Council friends, and NGS staff.  Another big thanks to everyone who made it to my session on Cluster Research at the end of Saturday after a long week of events. I basically told them to slow down and put more work into their research. It can be an overwhelming but so very fruitful. And finally, I’d like to extend a special shout out to my friends at the Archives of Michigan and The Genealogy Center at ACPL…. You all are fabulous!

Also, as a follow up to the Cluster Research program. I am in the same boat as everyone. Unless you’re lucky, you don’t start out doing it all correctly—properly analyzing every part of a document, properly sourcing your information, following out all the possible leads, etc. I’ve still got my share of things to clean up, follow out, and just do more work on. Writing and prepping for presentations helps me figure out what I’ve missed and work on what might otherwise feel like an overwhelming backlog of clean up.

Happy hunting (and research clean up when necessary),

Jess

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I’ve been an advocate for DNA testing from the moment it became affordable (to me) as a fabulous source for crowd-sourcing research, possibly confirming theories and outright conquering brick walls. And as I started presenting more, I’ve tried to remind people that you do have to be ready for what you find. While DNA can confirm your research, it can also completely undermine it.

My family has now confirmed that one of my close relatives is not the genetic child of the man that raised them. Needless to say, after working on these lines for 20+ years, this was a surprise. I can’t say I didn’t have an inkling that something was up (based on matches over the years—or lack thereof), but I assumed that any discrepancy was farther up the line. But now that a few more close relatives have tested, I’m starting to research a new line and luckily the relative with the “new” father seems to be taking it in stride. That whole experience—which really, we’re still working through—has put me in the middle of a lot of DNA discussions, found me attending every DNA related class/webinar/discussion I can squeeze in, and forced me to re-evaluate how I use my DNA results. In fact, this may just end up being a DNA focused year for me.

With that in mind if you’re in a similar position, just getting started with DNA testing, or have tests but don’t know what to do with the results, here’s a few things I’ve found and wanted to share—especially for Michigan area researchers:

I think it’s going to be a fascinating year!

Happy hunting!

Jess

Note: If you have DNA SIGS in your area, have go-to DNA resources people should know about, etc. Feel free to post to comments!

its-all-relative-9781476734491_hrToday’s the release day for A. J. Jacob’s latest, It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree. This is a fun and easy read about genealogy and the notion of families in general. In it Jacobs (The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically) works on his own family tree, meditates on the nature of family, and plots to host the world’s largest family reunion culminating in the Global Family Reunion in June of 2015. It includes big topics—privacy, scandal, DNA and “non-paternal events,” tradition and tribalism, and embracing failure—all handled with humor and care. It made me laugh and groan, but it’s also very hopeful for our global family.

Happy hunting (and reading),

Jess

 

FallingTrees2017

Falling trees in the woods leading up to Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Leelanau State Park, Northport, Michigan 2017

So, I’ve been very quiet of late for a number of reasons. I’ve had the great honor to present around the state, I’ve taken time to work on my own education—attending wonderful seminars and webinars offered by the Michigan Genealogical Council, Western Michigan Genealogical Society, BCG and APG. I’ve enjoyed working with my area societies on new projects. And finally… I’ve been trying to figure out my next move after a research find that pulled the rug out from under my feet.

As I work through this new twist in my research journeys, I am reminded that whenever you find yourself skidding into a new brick wall, your best bet is to regroup and continue to do thorough and documented research. Applying the Genealogical Proof Standard (which you should be doing anyway!)—exhaustive research, thorough documentation, analyzing the evidence, resolving conflicting evidence and writing up reasoned and coherent conclusions—can help you work through almost any setback.

Conflicting evidence will sometimes knock you for a loop, what matters is getting up, dusting yourself off, and getting back to work. Yes, I’ve got sports on in the background.

So, I’m getting back to work.

Happy hunting,

Jessica

I got out bright and early Saturday morning for Tim Pinnick’s packed and very informative presentation on newspapers which introduced me to Kenneth R. Mark’s The Ancestor Hunt. Which, of course, just made me want to go back to wandering newspaper archives.

I also enjoyed presentations by Wevonneda Minis on Asylum records and one by Janice Lovelace on Railroad records. And I closed out the conference by attending Diahan Southard’s “YDNA and atDNA” program which had a case study that mirrors a possible “non-paternal event” we may have identified in my family.

Again, I learned a lot at the conference, met new people and/or finally had time to talk to people I’d barely met before. I also felt reinvigorated with ideas to take back to my home societies that I’m hoping can be worked into our long-range plans.

If you get a chance, try a national genealogy conference like NGC 2018 in Grand Rapids or FGS 2018 in Fort Wayne. Hotels for both are already open!

Happy hunting,

Jess

What do you do when your ancestors are pulling you in different directions?

Grandmothers

Sarah E. Morningstar Porter & Elnora York Trotter

On Friday, I found myself going back and forth between African American research topics and German (and German-American) research presentations attending presentations on African American Apprenticeships, Black Laws in the North, Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts, German Church records and Germanic Origins of German-speaking immigrants.  And I, of course, now want to run off in five totally different directions in my research.

 

Some of the speakers were ones I’ve seen before and enjoyed (Thank you, Michael D. Lacopo, James M. Beidler and Judy G. Russell!) and the others were new to me but had fun and knowledgeable voices. Wevonneda Minis presented the James Dent Memorial Lecture: Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts—which gave me a better background in the period and new ideas of record sets to look for. Ari Wilkins delivered two fascinating presentations—on Plantation records and Apprenticeships—that were very informative with great case studies.

It was a fun day capped with a dinner gathering of the Michigan researchers and friends.

Happy hunting,

Jess