Blog Housekeeping


So… it’s been forever. On the plus side, I’ve definitely been working on my genealogy. But outside of answering your very encouraging and informative comments–thank you all for those!!—I’ve mostly been trying to figure out what to write next. Part of my issue is that I’m researching in probably way too many directions at once… but I also have to get over the need for a perfect post. I forget sometimes that I wanted to track the journey here as much as the findings. So, I have a goal to get past this bit of writer’s block and continue my research journey here.

Wish me luck & happy hunting!

Jess

Is this the blog post I’ve been trying to put out for weeks? Of course not!

But these are appearing in my Facebook feed and looked fun–Thank you Kris R., Cousin Marcia and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. They also played into a thought I had the other day listening to an article about the the Lansing State Journal’sMichigan Best Small Town” competition currently in the Final Four round.  Though I don’t quite know how I got around to it, it occurred to me that I am part of a 7th generation of children born and (mostly) raised in Michigan. Smith Lapham and his Gilbert in-laws were here in the Washtenaw County area in the late 1820s… which, mind you, I found fairly boring when I first started out, but it made for a great learning experience when I was starting in my research.

So, here’s my 5-Generation Birth Location Chart. Looks pretty good up to this point. It starts going nuts in the next generation with question marks, more immigrants, and, of course, more Michiganders.

Happy hunting,

Jess

5GenLocChart

20151227_165455The holidays are a (mostly lovely) distraction from my research, writing, etc. but they also lead to so many questions. Are you still doing genealogy? How far back have you gone? Are we really Irish?

Yes, I’m still doing genealogy.  Yes, I’m still working on your part of the family. If I could work on all of them at once I probably would, but I do tend to jump around in the branches. How far back depends on the line. And, yes, the Packers and Sheas are definitely part Irish but with a healthy dose of English and Scottish… you know those Packers came straight from Kent, people—you can’t be all Irish.

But as the dust settles, I find myself reviewing the years’ work and, yes, trying to formulate goals for the new year.  Here on the blog I was relatively quiet but it was a good research year for me. My only real research trip ended up being a big one—my first trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah where I happily immersed myself in British records to deepen my understanding of my Alison family and slave and Reconstruction era Arkansas in hopes of breaking down a few more brick walls surrounding my Bradley County families.  But the release of large digital collections at places like SeekingMichigan.org and Ancestry.com  gave me more than enough to do from home.

Throughout the year I connected with fellow researchers and distant family. I took a number of great classes, and taught a few too. I donated research time for a local Family Center’s annual auction and had a blast working with the winner. I continued to work as a volunteer indexer for one of my societies and “consulting librarian” for another. And I took a little time for crafting to share some of my findings with the family. All and all 2015 was a good year.

So, what will this year bring? Hopefully more of the same with a little more travel. New York and Arkansas are on my radar, though the latter might have to coincide with the next reunions in 2017. Salt Lake is a definite possibility.  We’ll have to see. Regardless, I’m starting the year right with a lot of ideas, leads, and friends and family.

Happy New Year and happy hunting!

Jess

It’s Family History Month and I’m trying to fit in all sorts of fun to celebrate. Including an annual trek to Grand Rapids for Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s Got Ancestors! Seminar (tonight and tomorrow)—this year featuring D. Joshua Taylor (more about that later), a couple of talks, and whole lot of research.  This post is mostly me checking in with you all and highlighting some of the things I am planning and looking forward to.

TreeTalkOct2015I have a couple of presentations I’m prepping for in the Lansing area this month:

  • I’ll be speaking at Tree Talk, CADL South Lansing’s new monthly genealogy discussion group on October 17th at 2 pm, about my experiences with DNA testing for genealogy research. Future topics for the group include: Census Quirks & Hidden Surprises on Nov 21st and Genealogy Toys for Your Holidays on Dec 19th.
  • PitfallsI’ll also be presenting, “Pitfalls, Mistakes, and Strokes of Insight”—in which I expose some of my biggest research mistakes in the hopes that you won’t have to make them too—for the Mid-Michigan Genealogical Society on Wednesday, October 28th at 7 pm, for their monthly meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lansing.

I’m also focusing pretty solidly on my Bradley County, Arkansas families while waiting for the arrival of a new photo book from MacArthur and Princella Davis (Thanks for the heads up, Kelly!!!). I’m also taking the time to go back through the first book Afro American’s of Bradley County Arkansas 1800-1930, simply because I’ve made so much progress on these lines—not so much backwards in time, but unraveling the various connections throughout the community—that I think that more will make sense this time around.  Additionally, I had a lovely conversation with Mr. Davis after I ordered my book, who wanted to figure out how I fit into the family—he is my 3rd cousin once removed by way of Sam Trotter’s brother Matt and Mrs. Davis is the grand-niece of the husband of my 2nd great-aunt Cora Trotter Steppes.

I have a new fun project that I might be able to talk about later, plus at CADL Downtown Lansing we’re plotting and planning for our National Genealogy Day Family History Open House in March! Oh, and yes, I’m also eyeing a list of roadtrips and trying to decide how many are feasible in the next year. There’s so much I want to do!

Happy hunting,

Jess

shelfThe last several months have been a bit harried with a move, work, and the odd existential crisis… but I’m still here and I was thrilled to see Thomas MacEntee’s great post about his “Genealogy Do-Over.” While everyday life has also interfered, I think I’ve been quiet on my blog because I’ve been working through similar issues since coming back from GRIP @ Orchard Lake in August. Thomas Jones’ class made me want to clean up my research, get everything properly cited, and appropriately researched and I have been quietly backtracking and making sure there is solid research with multiple sources for my genealogy. And Thomas MacEntee (and everyone who chimed in) is right, that’s a daunting task after nearly 20 years. Yet (very) slowly but surely that’s what I’ve been working on these past few months. I didn’t toss (or set aside) everything, instead deciding to start with my father and work backwards filling in missing citations, reexamining sources to wring out additional information, and examining sources I didn’t have on hand (or for that matter think to use) when I started my research.

A great example of the latter has been using city directories. I made a tremendous leap forward on my mother’s very urban ancestors by working my way through the directories of Detroit, Michigan. It filled in tremendous gaps, raised interesting questions and ultimately led me to the discovery of the Massey family. But when researching rural Arkansas families I had not thought to apply that same idea, so in this pass I searched the city directories that have been loaded into Ancestry only to find that those men I always thought of as rural lumberman and farmers spent a fair amount of time in the cities. I found Grandpa Levie working in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, before moving to Detroit and one of his (and my grandmother’s) cousins, Dewitt Trotter (from an earlier Trotter-York marriage), is well-documented in the directories for El Dorado, Union County, Arkansas.

SkiffLouisaNewEngMedGazette1869This review, so far, has exposed paths I had either missed or turned away from—including some that have led to fascinating new finds such as: two relatives with intriguing probate files committing them to the Northern Michigan Asylum; a previously unnoticed marriage between a man I believe to be my great grandfather’s older brother and my great-grandmother’s aunt; and the 50-year career of my a 5th grand aunt, Dr. Louisa Skiff Millard Clark, a respected homeopathic physician in the late 19th century in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Without systematically working through the siblings of my direct ancestors I was missing so much texture—not to mention information that directly connected to my ancestor.

To be fair to myself a lot of these things I have done well in my recent research but the work I did when I was in college is not up to par and those relatively large sections of my research need the review. As the new year unfolds you may see me chiming in on aspects of the “Genealogy Do Over” while I continue my own style of review but I definitely agree with the concept and think everyone needs to step back from time to time and try to look at their work with new eyes and the finer honed skills that come with practice and education.

Happy hunting,

Jess

CheersSo, looking back over the year despite strange ups and downs, I have accomplished a lot of my 2013 goals. I was honored to be asked to present at a number of genealogy events this year including for WMGS and ICGS  and for the Archives of Michigan.  I’ve made interesting in roads on a few of my lines—some inspired by the results of DNA tests and some by good old-fashioned library and archival research. I even managed short hops—to the Archives of Michigan and Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library—as well as a few trips to ACPL (including FGS).

I also had a few surprise requests come in as the year unfolded and my summer project became a hunt for my great aunt’s family who found their way into Michigan by way of Illinois from the south—Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. She and her family have been fabulously appreciative but I keep trying to tell them—I enjoyed myself! You Snow descendants have a fascinating family and it was a nice break from our shared lines. That said, one of you needs to start writing down Aunt Donna’s remembrances if you haven’t already… she had family stories to share once I jogged her memory with the facts I had unearthed.

For 2014 I have plans for more of the same:

  • Continuing my education… Checking out what my area societies and councils have planned such as the Abrams Seminar featuring Michael LeCelerc, Chief Genealogist at Mocavo.com, in July and WMGS‘s Annual Seminar featuring Dick Eastman in October—plus, I have my eye on GRIP on the Road.
  • Continuing to share my experiences both online and through talks around the area—starting “at home” with three sessions for the Capital Area District Libraries in February.
  • Hopefully, getting farther out on the road to do research—I’m still pondering the feasibility of Pennsylvania or Arkansas research.
  • And branching back out beyond “Not Quite Wordless Wednesday” which has been the one post I have tried to make consistently this year. There’s so much more to share and I’d like to get back to it.
  • I also have lots of mini-goals on my various lines.

So here’s to goal-setting and celebrating a New Year of research and fun!

Cheers, salud, and happy hunting and thank you all for following along!

Jess

Some of you got a preview of a post that will go up on Jan 3rd… Sorry! This is what happens when one forgets to change the year when it’s about to flip to a new calendar. Happy Birthday, Auntie! Ah well, user error at its best.

Happy New Year!

Jess

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