Technology drama

I had some awesome plans when starting this blog and then progressively over the summer I suffered a cascade of technology failures.

For a techo geek, this was horrible news.

First, my main work computer started crashing and experiencing hard drive failures.

After that, my trusty Chromebook started having issues. I tried to take it apart, but my large hands were not made to work on little tiny screws and plastic pieces.

I ordered a new Chromebook, but that one came broken and needs to be sent back for warranty repair.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was also having problems with my cell phone and needed to get an upgrade.

It look a little longer than expected to get a new work computer, and my backup laptop which is always super slow was also having stability issues.

Thankfully, I have a new work laptop now which is working wonderfully and I’m excited to get this blog moving again.

Reliance on technology

When I launched this blog back in early July, my plan was to post 5 days a week. I had a great schedule planned:

  • Monday: Obituary
  • Tuesday: Information about one of the family lines I’m researching
  • Wednesday: More of a free form post about different genealogy topics
  • Thursday: Upcoming events about genealogy / family history
  • Friday: News from the genealogy world

I added a topic for Saturday to post a photo.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago my Chromebook crashed. I do nearly everything online with that thing, and my other computers currently have issues.

I store nearly everything in the cloud these days, so I didn’t lose any data. However, I did lose the ability to get posts up and other content out there.

Thankfully, last week I replaced my Chromebook with a new version and we’re now back on track.

Using Google Maps to connect to your past

I’m a geek, and I like geeky tools.

One of my favorite things to do is look up on Google Maps places that come up in search for ancestors.

I wrote yesterday about The Pucket family and specifically my 2nd great grandmother Lizzie Pucket. The picture below is a current “street map” view of the street where she lived and worked as a cook.

Screenshot 2015-07-29 at 11.21.47 AM


I often scope out places where folks used to live as listed on the census.

My fourth great-grandfather was a man named Adam Ader. In the early 1800s, he was an early settler in North Carolina and owned a large plantation. There is a creek near Watertown, NC called Ader Creek that used to run through his plantation. It’s not a very large creek and looks pretty dry, but it’s pretty cool to see on a map.

Screenshot 2015-07-29 at 8.21.47 PM


Working horizontally

When I first started doing family history work, I worked really hard on finding direct descendants.

It was really fun to find the grandparents, great grandparents, 2nd great grandparents and more.

As I started to hit roadblocks and the evidence became thin, I needed more research to do.

I’m still working on developing the direct descendants, but I’m also working horizontally and laterally.

My great aunt Mildred was married and had one child, who died as a teenager. Her husband was a man by the name of Elmer Richards, and I’ve been having a lot of fun lately researching his line.

I’ve also been working on other aunts, uncles, cousins and those related to them.

It’s been a great way for me to keep the research moving while I’m waiting for other puzzles to solve.

Using the census information available online

To be honest, I don’t know if I’d be as interested in genealogy & finding my family’s history if it weren’t for the online tools.

I know many people who have spent hours looking at microfiche trying to find the answers, and that isn’t all that appealing to me.

I would definitely not be where I’m at in regards to my research if it weren’t for the online databases and indices of things that are available online.

If you had asked me years ago about how much I would come to rely on census information, I would have never believed you. I recently used census records from both here and in Canada to sort out a big puzzle that had resulted in some conflicting information. Turns out, that in the mid-1800s, two men named Peter McGregor immigrated from roughly the same area in Scotland to the Quebec area. Both had wives named Elizabeth and both were married about the same time.

One of the Peter McGregors had a son named Robert and a daughter named Jane and moved from Quebec to the United States and settled in Wisconsin. This Peter McGregor is my 3rd great grandfather. (Jane is my 2nd great grandmother.) The other is not directly related to me (as far as I know so far).

But, some online “trees” had these two men all mixed up.

It wasn’t until I was able to take a closer look at census records, specifically the 1860 US Census and the 1861 census (and a few others like that) and determine that these really were two different individuals.

I wish more of the census images were available free online. Thankfully, a lot of the indices are now available, but many of the images are still behind subscription paywalls.

When Genealogy Trips Go Sideways

I recently took a trip to Iowa and spent a few days in Des Moines. My main point of my trip to Des Moines — and also to the Menlo and Guthrie areas — was to find more information on one of my 2nd great grandmothers, her parents (specifically her mother) and her sister. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned.

What I know … Lydia Ann Clark was my 2nd great grandmother. She was born on April 18, 1864 in Menlo, Guthrie, Iowa. Her parents are Henry Clark and Catherine Stearns. Lydia lived in Iowa until at least 1892. In 1885, she married Thomas Hall Thierman and they had three daughters — all born in Iowa. By 1900, Lydia had moved to Southern California where she lived until her death in 1943.

Before going to Iowa, I knew that Lydia also had a brother and a sister but I didn’t know much about either of them. I also had quite a bit of information on her father – Henry Clark – but didn’t have a lot of information on her mother – Catherine Stearns.

What I was hoping to find: The first information I have on Catherine Stearns was her marriage to Henry Clark in 1862. Via census records, I know that she was born in Pennsylvania around 1840 but I don’t have any specifics. I also don’t know the name of her parents. I was also hoping to find more information on Lydia’s sister – Mahala Clark.

Unfortunately, I ran into two problems. I was really hoping to find a copy of the marriage certificate between Henry and Catherine. But, no marriage certificate exists. Iowa didn’t start issuing marriage certificates until 1880. Prior to that, marriages were only recorded in a register.

In regards to Mahala, births were also not recorded in Iowa at the time — especially for girls. The only time there would have been a record for a girl born in that time was if she needed a social security number in the 1930s. Mahala would have been in her 50s by the mid-1930s so she wouldn’t have needed a social security number.

The good news is that I was able to confirm the information I already had, so I know I’m on the right track.