On this Christmas Day, December 25th, 2017, my thoughts are turned to family research for some reason. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because genealogy research has occupied my spare thoughts for almost 50 years.
I’ve actually been interested in my family’s pedigree much longer, ever since my childhood, when my father would show us his family pedigree written on translucent drafting vellum in India Ink. He began documenting his ancestry in his early 20s same as I did.
My dad got his college education taking night classes with benefits from the G.I. Bill. In 1949 he took a class in drafting. The school later became known as the University of Alabama in Birmingham where my son and I also went to school. CLICK HERE to see an image of my father’s 68-year-old pedigree which he created while attending college.
Although my father began researching our family’s pedigree over 70 years ago he wasn’t the first to do so. He copied research from two relatives, the Kelly sisters, cousins of his parents. Marion and Maud McLure Kelly were researching our Vincent, Pace, and other family lines over 100 years ago. Maud was famous for being the first woman to practice law in the state of Alabama but she was equally famous in genealogical circles for writing numerous research papers on some of our ancestral lines.
Marion was first to begin documenting our Vincent family research. Maud did a lot of traveling, researching our Vincent ancestors. She clarified research on our Pace line. Years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock on 1620, our ancestor Richard Pace was living near Jamestown, Virginia. It’s kind of cool being descended from someone who may have known John Smith and Pocahontas.
But what about our other ancestors with other surnames. The number of surnames in everyone’s family doubles with each generation. Your parents were born with two different surnames, your grandparents with 4, your great-grandparents with 8.
You may know your mother’s maiden name but do you know her grandmother’s maiden name? There’s been lots of family research done on my dad’s side but not on my mom’s side of the family. From 1970 to 1990 I spent most of my research time looking into my mother’s ancestry. Now I know the surnames of my 8 great-grandparents. They are:
I’m not so sure about the surnames of their parents. That’s where we start running into what genealogists call a “brick wall.” To sort things out, I’m starting a new project by copying cousin Maud’s idea. 100 years ago Maud Kelly started documenting her family research in a legal journal. It looks like an old abandoned log book her father, also a lawyer, may have used.
I can just see young Maud asking her dad,
“Father, do you have a book I can use to record my genealogy research?”
“Sure, daughter, use this old book. I rarely use it anymore.”
And so it began. Maud’s notes in the margins, headers, coverleaf, etc. show her entries were organized almost from the beginning. She wrote the surname at the top. My own research notes from 1970 to 1988 were rather random. In 1988 I began a new research book which I used until 1995. In it, I began writing the date of each research effort. I tried to enter a one-line description and put the current date at the top of each entry. On the inside front and back covers I recorded an index of the pages. That research log is by far the easiest to thumb through.
Over the years since then, computers, the internet, email, texting, and social media have greatly modernized communications. Writing things down (or printing them) in print form is still critically important for personal archives but these tools are wonderful for quickly documenting ongoing efforts.
How should they be organized? Why by surname, of course! So I’m entering a new era of documenting my research. With any luck I’ll live long enough to see it completed. I’ll be trying to compile my half century of written and electronic correspondence and research discoveries on the internet. For my platform, I’m choosing one of my web domains, MyKinFolks.org, that I’ve had for a few years now.
Creating and maintaining websites is so cool. The HTML code used is pretty simple to create. Uploading is kind of expensive but a good way to archive stuff in addition to printed form. Long after I’m gone, people should still be able to read and view my web pages from any web browser. To preserve the pages, I only need to copy them to a CD. Anyone with a computer can view them. They don’t need the internet.
I began documenting my ancestry online in the late 1980s with FamilySearch.org’s Ancestral File, their online companion to Personal Ancestral File (PAF). 10 years later I was inspired by Sheridan Vincent’s website and I created my first website in 1998. Another 10 years, in 2007, I purchased my first domain, vincentfam.net. A year later, VincentsFamily.org (with an “s”) followed, then VincentFamily.org (no “s”) became available. I purchased it and MyKinFolks.org in 2012.
I’ve learned a lot from other researchers working with VincentFamily.org. I’ll continue to do so. Other family lines have since heated up. A few evenings ago I received a phone call from a distant cousin about my research. I got frustrated talking to her because I couldn’t locate all the papers and books and correspondence needed. I kept having to apologize.
My years of research are in too many formats. The essential parts need a common platform. I’ll share research on other lines by starting my Smith research at MyKinFolks.org. That line has really gotten hot over the past few years. It will be fun sharing what I know online with all the other Smith researchers.
So that’s it in a nutshell. That’s gonna be one of my projects for 2018. Wish me luck and stay tuned.