Sentimental Saturday – Happy 4th of July

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture.

Ellen and I are both proudly Canadian. Ellen was born in London, Ontario and I was born in Toronto, Ontario.

But we both have family connections to the United States.

My mother, Anne Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden was born in Detroit, Michigan. Ellen’s maternal grandmother Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer was born in California.

Ellen’s American roots go much deeper though. Her 7X great grandfather was Edmond Faulkner, one of the founders of Andover, Massachusetts around 1645. One of Edmund’s great grandsons Col. Francis Faulkner, Ellen’s second cousin, 6 times removed, fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord Bridge, initiating the Revolutionary War (or, War of Independence depending on perspective).

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the grave of her 7X Great Grandfather Edmond Faulkner

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the grave of her 7X Great Grandfather Edmond Faulkner

In 2013, Ellen and I took a road trip that included travelling through Massachusetts and I couldn’t resist attempting to find Edmond Faulkner’s grave. It meant a number of wrong turns along the way but eventually we were successful in locating the Old North Parish Burying Ground in what is now North Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts.

I took the photo above showing Ellen at her ancestor’s grave. The current gravestone was erected by some descendants of Edmond Faulkner just over 100 years ago, replacing what was likely an original, and no doubt very weathered, slate gravestone.

So we wish a Happy 4th of July, Independence Day, to all of our numerous American family members and friends. Enjoy your holiday and please be safe.

Collaboration in Genealogy – An Example Of Doing It Right

While I was travelling through Scotland and Ireland, I received an email from notifying me that another Ancestry member with the user name kforsman72 had sent me a message.

I will often receive these types of emails that are typically from people asking for more information about someone in my online public Ancestry tree. This message was different.

The message I received stated “I just wanted to let you know that I came across the graves of the Kletzings in Section 5 of Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. The graves include Josiah, Kate, Arba, Clarence, Florence Amy, and Kathryn Gall. I’ve created memorials and uploaded photos of the graves to Find-A-Grave, in case you are interested in viewing them.”

Once I was home from my trip, I went to the Find-A-Grave site where I searched for and found the Kletzing memorials reference in the Ancestry message.

KLETZING Josiah gravestone from findagrave

Grave site of Josiah and Kate Kletzing, Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois (Photo by Kate Forsman, 2015. Used with permission)

The memorial pages provide the information found provide information from and a photo of the grave of my wife Ellen’s first cousin, three times removed Catherine ‘Kate’ (Nusbickel) Kletzing, her husband Josiah Kletzing and some of their children.

Kate Kletzing was the daughter of Frederick Nusbickel and Elizabeth Wagner, an older sister of my wife’s 2X great grandfather Rev. Jacob Wagner. Kate was born 1 March 1855 in Rose, Wayne County, New York and according to U.S. census records she married Josiah Kletzing around 1880. Josiah and Kate had five known children, three of whom are documented on the gravestone. Kathryn Gall, who is listed on the gravestone, was Josiah Kletzing’s second wife whom he married in 1915.

I now know kforsman72 to be Kate Forsman and from what I can determine Kate does not have the Kletzing family in her family tree. No, Kate took a photo of the Kletzing grave and set-up the Find-A-Grave memorial pages to help out other genealogists and researchers. That’s a good thing.

But Kate took it a step further, checking on Ancestry to see who might have this Kletzing family in their tree. She found me and through that initial message, she helped me add some valuable evidence to my research database.

Well done, Kate. I believe the genealogy community is made of great folks who love to help others and Kate has demonstrated why I hold that belief.

The Genealogy Do-Over: To Do Or Not To Do, That Is The Question

In December 2014, noted genealogist Thomas MacEntee announced that he would be leading a genealogy do-over, a chance to set aside your genealogy database and start again, hopefully not making the same mistakes that most, if not all of us, have made particularly when starting out with research into our family’s histories.

At first blush, it sounded to me like thoughts I have had about the things I would change if I could live my life over again. “If I only knew then what I know now!” 

I even thought that I could see traces of a genealogy ’12-step- program’: admit your obsession, recognize your past name collecting habits, learn to research your genealogy within acceptable genealogical standards.

Starting over is very tempting! In May 2012 I indicated that I was going to give it a try – and I did – with mixed results. After decades of genealogy research and education, the ‘new’ database that I started looked good. All facts about my ancestors were properly entered and documented with primary sources. But I stopped out of frustration.

The more I have thought about the current genealogy do-over initiative, one that admittedly thousands are following, the more I see as a good skill building opportunity. Thomas has laid out a sound genealogy research plan for the ‘do-over’ group. He has built in sufficient flexibility to allow participants to personalize their plans and share innovations.

I have decided to follow the initiative but not actively participate. My reasoning for this decision is simple: it is in my estimation not good use of my time. 

The database of my ancestors (and for clarity, the database includes my wife’s family) contains 16,788 individuals today. I freely admit that because of past genealogy ‘sins’ there are errors in the data and not all sources are cited. There are in too many instances, sources cited but very poorly.

I’m working on fixing those errors, little by little, each and every day when I find the time to work on my own family research. I also enjoy that every day I can find something to fix which usually leads to new research clues and greater depth in understanding the lives of ‘those upon whose shoulders I stand.’

Starting Over! Am I Crazy?

I have long suffered (and have posted about) what I refer to as the ‘sins of my genealogy youth.’ Specifically my lack of source citations for all of the ‘facts’ I had gathered over thirty plus years of research.

When I began researching my family’s history, source citation was something I had done in university but my family history was different – it was for me. In the early 1980’s there was a collaborative approach taken to genealogy but that usually meant having a query posted in a society newsletter and then waiting, hoping that one day something would appear in the mailbox (as in ‘snail mail’ box). With computers and the Internet, genealogy database programs, however rudimentary, helped keep my information organized and made finding fact tidbits a bit easier through posted indexes. The digital age has ever increasingly allowed me to gobble up large numbers of records, as well as digitize and share large quantities of family photos and documents, and connect more easily with family members and researchers, close and distant.
But I always came to the same spot. When asked what I had used as a source for a fact or event, I was usually left having to search through pages of notes or hundreds (thousands?) of scanned images in the hope that I would find the information source.
My first effort to tame this merciless dragon was to begin wading through the 12,500 plus individuals in my database and one by one, add source citations to the facts and events that I had recorded for them. I made the effort but was not satisfied with the results. It just didn’t feel, for me, that I was really advancing. It felt like I was trying to get somewhere by running on a treadmill – you put out the effort but at the end you’re still in the same space.
As I posted previously I began formal genealogy study through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies some months ago and I know as a result, my research habits and practices have improved. Ultimately, this lead me to the conclusion that I needed to start over again.
So I have created what I refer to as my family ‘master’ file. Nothing, no name or fact, is allowed into this master file without a well composed source citation supporting it. I am using Elizabeth Shown Mills “Evidence Explained” as my source citation ‘bible‘ which is always open on my desktop as I research. As a back-up, I have Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book “Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian” close by my side.
So the big question for me was “Has this helped? Is my ‘new’ database any better?” I think so and can offer two quick examples: in my original database I had six sources cited for the birth of my second great grandfather Lewis Fitzgerald but now in my ‘master’ database, I have fifteen sources for his birth. Similarly, in my original database I had four sources for the birth of my great grandfather John Foley whereas I now have thirteen sources cited for the same event in the new ‘master’ database.
I’m not trying to suggest that he/she who has the most sources for an event wins but rather doing it right has great merit. What do you think?

Tracing Ancestry to Adam and Eve

While I researching the recently concluded series about the Vermilyea murder and trial, I read many old newspaper pages from the Toronto Star’s Pages of the Past newspaper archive. Reading old newspapers can be fascinating and I was especially taken by the prices of houses, goods and services through the 1930’s period that I was reviewing.

One story on the front page of the February 25, 1935 edition caught my attention in particular. Genealogists may not get mentioned often but here they were on the front page of the daily newspaper in a major Canadian city debating the topic. Here for your enjoyment is the story.

The story’s headline reads:

Tracing Ancestry to Adam, Eve Absurd, Say Toronto Genealogists

There are many people in Toronto with the name of Stewart who are descended from the Stewart kings, but they can’t prove it, Col. Baptist Johnston, a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, told The Star today, branding as “absurd” the claim of Mrs. Christian Sells Jaeger of Columbus, Ohio, that she has succeeded in tracing her ancestry back through 159 generations to Adam and Eve.

Col. Johnston declared, however, that Harry Drummond, of Deer Park Cres., is able to trace his ancestry back to the Earls of Perth, whose pedigree can be proven to approximately 1200 A.D. So quickly does the human race multiply, he pointed out, that Edward III of England now has tens of thousands of descendants.

“Some people have become almost insane on the topic of genealogy,” Col. Johnston commented. “Very few people can prove their ancestry prior to 1100.

“The late Henry O’Brien K.C. [King’s Counsel], of Toronto, was a descendant of the earls of Thomond, one-time kings of Munster.”

“In the first place I don’t think there is any such individual as Adam,” declared Rabbi M. N. Eisendrath. “How can she trace her pedigree back through Zedekiah, David, Enos and Seth to Adam” he asked, “when many biblical names are not names of persons, but of tribes. In the Old Testament the union of two clans is expressed as a marriage.”

“It is quite impossible to go back with any degree of accuracy beyond the time of the Norman conquest.” observed Prof. R. Flenley of the University of Toronto. “Even the ancestry of kings cannot be traced accurately much more than 1000 years.”

So now we know, we who “have become almost insane on the topic of genealogy.”