Sunday, October 16, 2011

Look It Up, Dear!

In honor of Noah Webster's birthday, today has been designated Dictionary Day!

Language is evolving constantly, so the words we encounter in records about our ancestors may be unfamiliar to us. Or we may find that the definition in use today is not the same as in past times!

A must-have in your genealogy library is Black's Law Dictionary. Although Black's is now in its 9th edition, the 4th edition is recommended because it contains terms genealogists may encounter that are now obsolete.

Another fun dictionary to have on the shelf is A to ZAX: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists & Historians, by Barbara Jean Evans. It includes words from many categories including occupational, household, and colloquial terms.

Whenever you encounter an unfamiliar word in historical documents, or a phrase seems unclear, remember your parents admonishment to "look it up, dear!"

Disclaimer: The links above lead to product pages. I am an Amazon affiliate, and should you purchase a book by following one of my links, I will receive a small commission. You pay the same price as if you visited Amazon independently.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On Being a Better Ancestor - Diaries and Journals

Cover from public domain
copy book, Wikimedia Commons.
I don’t think there’s a genealogist alive that wouldn't love to find an ancestor's be able to read, in that person's own hand, their thoughts on day-to-day life, their dreams and aspirations, their frustrations and disappointments.

There’s been some discussion about journals on the blogs recently. It started with a New York Times article written by Dominique Browning, Burning the Diaries. Melissa Mannon shared her reaction to the article on Marian Pierre-Louis commented on Melissa’s post, and then posted Have You Ever Considered an Intentional Journal?

Here’s my take…

In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron recommends writing daily morning pages—three handwritten pages of stream-of-consciousness writing—as a method to get rid of the junk that inhibits our creative spirit. Morning pages are not intended to be read by anyone, not even the writer, for at least several weeks and perhaps not at all.

I’ve written morning pages off and on for about ten years. They are filled with endless whining, grousing and complaining about work, relationships, family, etc., nothing of any value in telling my story.  It’s the same from day to day, from one year to the next. For me, the value of morning pages lies in their cathartic properties. I surely don’t want anyone to read them EVER! One of these days, I will take the time to shred them. I wish I had a fireplace because it would be so much quicker to burn them!

I don’t have the discipline to write an intentional journal, so I will continue to post short memoirs on my 52 Weeks of Personal History blog. (Having procrastinated for nine months, I am still getting caught up!) When the year is over, I plan to choose another set of prompts to use in continuing my life account.

Everyone has a story that should be told…choose a way that feels comfortable for you and tell yours!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Monday, October 10, 2011

On Being a Better Ancestor - Memories

“Tell me about the olden days.” I can remember asking my parents to tell me what life was like when they were young. But now they are gone, and there are so many more questions I would like to ask.

Preserving memories is an important aspect of being a good ancestor. One of the methods that can be used is to write about them in blog posts. There are many resources available to use as writing prompts. Here are just a few:

I must confess I intended to start doing this at the beginning of the year, using Amy Coffin’s series. But I haven’t....and now must catch up! My plan is to write 7 posts per week including the prompt for the current week and several from previous weeks until I am back on track.

I’ve created a blog just for these posts—52 Weeks of Personal History—and published three posts. The posts are “dated” according to the week when the prompt was originally scheduled to be written. Once the year is over, my goal is to publish a “blog book” that can become part of my genealogy legacy.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Genealogy Database Statistics

Randy Seaver, of GeneaMusings, has posted this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge:
Hey genea-philes - it's Saturday Night!  Time for more Genealogy Fun!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1)  If you have your family tree research in a Genealogy Management Program (GMP), whether a computer software program or an online family tree, figure out how to find how many persons, places, sources, etc. are in your database (hint:  the Help button is your friend!).

2)  Tell us which GMP you use, and how many persons, places, sources, etc. are in your database(s) today in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook status or Google+ stream comment.
I use the Deluxe Version of Legacy Family Tree 7, which doesn't provide as many statistics as RootsMagic 4. The steps in Legacy are to click on HELP, and then on GENERAL INFORMATION; here are my results:

It shows that the version I am using has a build date of 2 Aug 2011; one of Legacy's features is that it will remind you to check for updates to the software. This is the most recent version.

Under File Information, you will note that the Family File Path shows that I have saved my database to My Dropbox. By saving it there, I can be sure that I have the most up-to-date information whether I open the database from my desktop computer or my laptop.

Finally, it gives some content information:

  • Number of individuals: 9,765
  • Number of families: 3,456
  • Unique surnames: 2,161
  • Master source entries: 921 (Of course, I have many more source citations! This just represents the number of master sources I am currently using.)

Here are some of the other reports available in Legacy, along with my current page count for each report:

  • Event Report: lists events for each individual (200 pages)
  • Source Citations Report: lists each master source with the number of times it is used (62 pages)
  • Surname Report: lists each surname with the number of occurrences (37 pages)
  • To Do Report: lists to-do items by individual (21 pages)

To save trees, I don't print ANY of these reports!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friend of Friends Friday - Will of Alpheus Beal (Beall) 1833

While researching another family in Ohio County, West Virginia, I found the will of Alpheus Beal (Beall) written in 1833 which is transcribed below; copies of the images follow the transcription.

"Know all men by these presents that I Alpheus
Beal of Ohio County Farmer being weak in
body but of Sound mind and memory make
this my will and testament as follows

First I bequeath after all my just debts are
paid: to my black girls (vis) Easter Lethe
Mariah and Harriett all the property herein
after mentioned  All my land to be rented
until it Can be Sold and the interest to be paid
as well as the interest arising from the money
got for the land after it is Sold to the black
girls aforesaid Second I bequeath to the black
girls above named half of the Crop in the ground
at the time of my decease and also Loom and
tackling--a Cow--one back oven--brass Kettle--
tea Kettle Smoothing Irons and all their own beds &
bedding and Kitchen furniture except the three big
Kettles two bake ovens and one pot
Third I bequeath to the above named black
girls the interest of my personal estate after it is Sold
Fourth I bequeath to my girl Lethe a Sow and
pigs also a sow and eight pigs-- Also Sugar tongs
and six silver tea spoons to Harriet another of my girls
Fifth I hereby will and ordain my black girls (viz)
Lethe Harriet Easter and Mariah free at my death
Fifth After the death of my girls before mentioned
the money remaining in the hands of my Exec
=utors I devise to be paid to Alpheus Beal Willi
=ams my Nephew of Montgmery County Ma
=ryland I wish my Executors to have my prop
=erty Sold at a reasonable credit and they are
hereby empowered to execute all the parts of this
my last will and testament

I hereby appoint Zachariah Jacobs
of Wheeling Virginia my Sole Executor of
this my last will and testament Witness
my hand and Seal this twenty eighth day of
June one thousand eight hundred & thirty then
and thirty three Alpheus Beall (Seal)
Samuel McKeehan
John Stroop
Benjamin Stroop
At a court held for Ohio County on the fifth
day of August 1833
The last will & Testament of Alpheus Beall
deceased is presented in Court and proved by
the oaths of John Stroop & Benjamin Stroop
Two of the Subscribing witnesses thereto
and ordered to be recorded
A Copy Test Jno McColloch  Clk"

[Source: Ohio County, West Virginia, Will Books, V. 03 1828-1854, 98, will of Alpheus Beal; online images, Family Search ( : accessed 3 October 2011), image 80.]

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research