matthewkmiller on Family Tree Circles
Journals and Posts
I was looking through my direct ancestors to see if I had photos of headstones for those that could be available. I found that I was missing a photo of the headstone of my great-great-grandmother, Maria Elizabeth (born Geers), (married Menke), (later married Schutte). Her burial is supposed to be in a cemetery local to where my mother grew up. I emailed a cousin and she didn't have it despite looking for it a few years back. I went to www.findagrave.com and saw that her headstone hasn't been posted. I submitted a request for a photo of her headstone, then it occurred to me to "glance" through the site and see if I could find headstones of others in my tree "real quick" so I had all the information I could on my relations. It's such a tiny little town, there couldn't be that many people buried there, right?
Wow. Just wow. I've now been at it for a week, all the time previously spend researching has been used downloading headstone photos and sometimes filling out spots in the tree I was missing information on someone or even missing people. It's amazing how families in small towns inter-marry. No, there's no "kissin' cousins" but when you have a dozen or so surnames, each marrying into the others, it gets quite confusing. A simple little "let's get a quick photo or two" has turned into a major, "let's see if we can connect everyone in this cemetery". Since I'm probably halfway through the alphabet in this "small" cemetery, I think it's likely 75-90% of the people buried there are linked and will end up in my family tree. Although probably 60% were in there already.
I know it's not a primary or even a secondary source (I think I'd call it a backup confirmation and a few more details source), when the new information fits the information I already have, I'll take it as relatively reliable.
I'm not sure if I want to try to keep up on a genealogy blog but thought I'd give it a try. Just my thoughts on what I've been doing lately and challenges I'm having.
My genealogy work load is through the roof right now. Granted, I don't do it for a living and I don't do anyone else's genealogy so it's just what I feel I need to work on for my own family tree. I just have so much in the works that I'm having difficulty keeping up. Here's a list off the top of my head:
1. Second edition of my Panther family history book. I put out the first edition almost exactly one year ago and I've gotten new information that really needs to be in there. The updates are: a) a CORRECT picture of the ship my great-grandfather came to America on. The one in the first edition is, not only wrong, but very wrong. This is the main reason I want the second edition put out. b) An old family photo from the village he was from that no one knew who was in it. My second-cousin sent me a letter she's had in her possession for a while that tells us exactly who it is. c) New information about the history of the ship my great-grandfather's brother came over on. I need to get this put out because the city manager of the village my ancestors are from is ordering 6 copies of the book and I want to be sure they have all the correct information. This is high-priority, like in the next week. The person who gave me information about the ships also appears to have a schedule/ad from the shipping company my great-grandfather use from the approximate timeframe. It actually advertises for the voyage my great-grandfather took to America. The problem is that I've had difficulty getting together with the person who has this. It's just that my work schedule is inflexible at the moment and she's only available during certain times. I can't decide how to arrange my priorities at the moment. I really want to include this schedule/ad but I really need to get the second edition published ASAP.
2. Republishing my father's family history books. Someone put out my father's paternal grandmother's genealogy about 12 years ago but there are no copies available any longer. It's a two-volume set of hardcover books of about 450 pages each. I got my hands on a set about 6 months ago and I scanned them in using a very quick handheld scanner, except I got good scans of the photos. The person that put out the original books stated in the introduction that she is not copywriting the books and anyone can use the information any way they choose, but should just include acknowledgement, so that is not a problem. Besides, I'm just doing an on-demand publication for my immediate family because I truly want a copy of the books for myself and some of my siblings might also. I've got about 300 pages done. I'm having to retype the text and insert the photos. Once I get 100 pages into it, with photos, Word starts responding quite slowly so I'm having to split the books into several sections. I hope to have volume one done this year. The second volume will likely have to wait until next year.
3. My wife's genealogy. The good news is that the research for her family history is complete. We borrowed a copy of one of the books from her brother. I'm working on entering this into a database on my computer. Once this is done, there is a book put out for her grand-uncle when he became a US Senator and her mother was born and grew up in Germany and has an extensive family history on her side. I just need to gather everything into a database so we can work with the information.
4. Original research. Recently found two new sets of great-great-grandparents. I'm hot on the trail to jump the pond to track their families back to Ireland. One of my great-grandmothers has always been a mystery. I MAY have figured out where she was born. I'm just waiting to hear back from their local genealogy society from the query I sent them a few weeks ago.
I know this isn't what Scott is looking for as a Genealogy Speaker blog post but I still think it's close enough to the subject and something I think makes a good post. I don't have a favorite genealogy speaker. I've heard a few people speak about genealogy through online videos and streaming audio. I don't think I've come across anyone I don't like, so I'm taking this post in my own direction.
What genealogy speaker most inspired me? Me!
No, I'm not getting a big head. No, I'm not saying I'm that great a genealogist or speaker. I think I'm moderately "okay" in each.
The reason I say this is because of the reaction, feedback and education I receive from others. I spent a few years making at least weekly visits to my local Family History Library at the LDS Church. I had hit the motherlode of family history information and I was spending large amounts of time scanning microfilm, making new discoveries and discussing my finds and techniques with the staff and other regulars. Before long, I was asked for advice from the staff to help others. It didn't take a lot of my time or effort and besides, I enjoy talking about my hobby. Finally, after nearly three years, I self-published the family history book on my mother's father's father's ancestors. It was a huge accomplishment that I was proud of and happy to have completed.
Nearly a year after publishing, I received a call from the local family history center. I hadn't visited in a while because I had nothing to research. My name had come up in conversation and they asked me to speak at their next monthly staff meeting. I was happy to take on the challenge although I hadn't done this before.
I put together a PowerPoint presentation, starting with what we knew about my great-grandfather's family before the breakthrough occurred, explained how we found the nugget of information that led us to his ancestors in his hometown, a village with a current population of about 2000 people in southwestern Germany. I then went on to explain how I researched, documented and published the family tree information.
What I presented and what I learned from that presentation is that presenting your information to others will help you in future presentations and, more importantly, help you in your research. We had an old photograph that was passed down through the family. On the margin was scribbled "Panthers in Germany". Panther is the family name. No one knew who was in the photograph or where it was taken. Because I had exchanged emails with others who had attempted research on this branch of the family, a second cousin, who takes trips to this area of Germany every few years just because he enjoys the area, heard about my research. He called me and said he going to the area in a couple of weeks and wanted information so he would know what to look at and see if he could do any more research. I got him a copy of the photograph and gave him names of the family from the area. While there, he met the city manager, who is a distant cousin and found the actual house in the "Panthers in Germany" photograph and found out how the house and the house next door had passed down in the family until recent times. I used a lot of this information in the book.
Then nearly a year after publishing, I recieved an email from another distant cousin. She has had letters written in 1913 in old German script in her possession from her grandmother's papers. She didn't know who they were from, to, or what they said. She asked if I could translate them. She sent them to me because I was researching the family. If I had not shared my research, I would never have known these letters existed. I could make out a few words but wasn't making much progress so I asked my wife's aunt, who grew up in Germany to see if she could figure them out. It ends up the letters were from my great-grandfather's half-brother, still in the village. The heading of the letter even had the name of the village! Had we known about these letters sooner, we might have found the village sooner. The letter went on to discuss the family photo that was enclosed. The letter explained exactly who was in the "Panthers in Germany" postcard. It also gave us a snapshot of what was happening in the village in 1913.
Then, during the presentation, the photo of the boat my great-grandfather came to America on came on the screen. I had put this photo in at the last minute because I thought it would be a good example of how to track down ship information. A lady in the audience spoke up, "When did your great-grandfather come to America?" I explained that it was in 1872. She said, "That's not the boat." Not only was it not the boat, it wasn't even from the same era as my great-grandfather's voyage. To say I was embarrassed is an understatement. However, this allowed me to establish a discussion with this lady who happened to be a ship expert. Over the following few months, we met up and found a more accurate sketch of my great-grandfather's ship, along with an advertisement for the passenger ship line from the era of my great-grandfather's voyage. It made for a great update to put out a second edition of the book.
The moral of the story is share! Exchange emails with distant cousins. Speak to other genealogists. Make a presentation at a family reunion, your local family history center or local genealogy society. Show people what you've discovered and how you found it. You just never know what they might provide you in return.
I've been working on recreating (to republish) the family history books of the Bixenman family using my poor quality scans for the pictures and retyping all the text. That's quite a job when just volume 1 is nearly 500 pages! My distant cousin sent me good quality photocopies of all the pages of volume 1. Now, I'm scanning each of these in and will just have to clean them up a bit and put them together into a book. What a life saver! Instead of MAYBE having it done by the end of the year, I fully expect to be done well before that. Thank you Paula!
The Panther Family Reunion 2012 is coming up this weekend. This is for descendants of Moriz Panther and Elizabeth Birk from Moesbach, Baden, Germany. Two sons remained in Moesbach (Phillip and Donat) and two moved to southeast Iowa (Ferdinand and Alois). We know that most attending will be descendants of Alois' son Benedict, we hope to see many more from other branches of the tree. You can see some of the family tree research and charts, order the book and see photos and movies from the reunion linked from this page:
I was able to meet up with the ship expert on Wednesday and got good scans of the ship image and the ad for Norddeutscher Lloyd from the time-frame of my great-grandfather's voyage to America. It lists the trip between Bremen and New Orleans for November 19 and shows that the Hanover I is the ship making the voyage. My great-grandfather took the trip in September of 1872 so it's not an ad for his exact voyage but at least in the correct time-frame because he traveled on this ship.
I put together the updates for the book. Every time I think I had it ready, I found another small thing to correct. Finally, on Saturday, I published the Second Edition of the book. I posted a note about it on my extended family's Facebook group page and sent the email to the long list of relatives that would be interested. I also posted .pdf files of the pages that were changed the most onto my Family History Links page on Rootsweb so people who have the first edition can print them up and place them into their book so they have all the updated information.
This morning, I got an email from one of my second cousins saying that another second cousin, who traveled from Australia to attend our family reunion last month had passed away. He went in for knee surgery and was home recovering when he passed in his sleep. I'm glad I was able to meet James Adrian Panther, b. Feb 29, 1944, d August 24, 2012 before his passing.
Now to get back to re-publishing my dad's genealogy. Hopefully it will be done by the end of the year.
After emailing the long list of people expected to be interested in the republishing of the Bixenman Family History Book, Volume 1, I received an email from a distant cousin. She said, "I wish I had known you were looking for Sister Catherine's books. She gave me her copies of the Bixenmann family books and I have two copies of Book 2 and would love to send it to you as you are the first one to express interest."
So, my republishing wasn't "necessary" in order for me to obtain a copy. That's okay though. I'm happy to have it available to others who are interested given the short supply that is out there. I've decided to do the same thing with volume 2. I'm actually considering putting the two volumes together into one. I believe it would be within the page limits of the on-demand self-publishing site. If so, I think I'll make them available individually, in case someone needs just one volume. In addition, I'll see if I can put them into a single volume. I think this could be the next major project, to start from scratch to publish the entire Bixenman Family Tree book, including George Bixenman's branch, since I've since received that also.
However I proceed, I'll definitely work with Paula to be sure the best possible book is published.
I finished making my way through the Find-A-Grave site for the St. James Cemetery in St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa. It ends up I don't have 75%+ of the people buried there in my database. I "only" have about 43%. I'm confident that several more of them are actually connected given their surnames but I can't confirm a connection. Regardless, this expedition allowed me to add dozens of headstone photos to people in my extended family tree.
With new clues very elusive, my attention has been divided among the various branches of my tree, hoping for some big discovery that could really grab my attention and get me excited to discover new information. When I focus on one area too long with no new information, it gets very discouraging. That's when I "give up" and move to another part of my tree until the same thing happens there.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from someone whose family is from the Ulm/Stadelhofen area (where my Panther family is from). He saw one name that matched one on his tree and said that the marriage information he had for this person didn't match mine. It ends up we were talking about two different people with the same name, from the same area and the same timeframe. His family did touch mine in other areas though and they were from the area whose church records I have a copy of. I got some names and dates from him and decided to see what I could find. For a couple of branches, the records died out early. Apparently the family moved there from another location whose records I don't have. For at least one of the branches however, we appear to have hit the motherlode of information. It also happens to be on his direct male ancestor line so we're researching his father's father's father's father etc etc etc.
While this isn't a line that is directly related to me, it is still exciting to find new information for someone. To be reading the old Latin church books and finding pertinent information regarding someone's direct ancestors is very satisfying. If I could make a living doing this, I think I could enjoy it. However, seeing how time consuming it is, I don't see how professional genealogists can make a living. To charge an hourly rate that could support me and my wife full-time seems like it would be astronomically expensive to the person receiving the resulting information.
Because of this, I do it for fun and leisure. The way I describe it is that everyone has a hobby. Some people enjoy crossword puzzles in their spare time. I enjoy family history research. The biggest difference is that I'm actually accomplishing something that means something to someone. In the meantime, I expect that eventually I'll have most of the families in these villages all mapped out so anyone whose family is from the area would have an easy time of finding all their family just with one quick query. Yes, that will take a long time but it's something to look forward to.