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My Latest Obsession: My Family Tree

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I grew up saying my ancestry was “American”. I always felt uncomfortable at stupid Heritage Day at school, when you were supposed to say what country your ancestors came from. I didn’t know where mine were from. My mom has always said my great great great grandpa was from Germany.

Then at work one day I got a book for free (because we used to get perks like that) called Our Family History. It got me excited, and I started gathering all the info I could from my mother, who is one of the few close relatives I have that is still alive. Then my husband and I went to the Lenawee County Historical Museum and I copied old obituaries of people with the same last names as my family. Over time, some proved to be related, others not. Then we went cemetery hopping around the county. This was way more fun than it sounds. It is very convenient that most of my relatives were in the area for a while. I spent a lot of time looking for two specific families who lived near Rome, Michigan. It is a tiny place, with a current population of only 1,772 and a gas station. But surprisingly, it has like six cemeteries. Of course, my ancestors were in the last cemetery I looked in. (West Rome Cemetery—give me a shout out if you have ever been there!)

About at this point is when I got overwhelmed and got a computer program to store all my data in. A program for genealogy work is wonderful. It saves you from having to type the same info over and over again. I bought the Cosmi Perfect Family Tree. I do not recommend it. Perfect Family Tree seemed to store the information well enough. But it wasn’t easy to navigate. The real problems started when I tried to print. It would randomly show spouses or children for people who they did not belong with. It also always truncated the information to only one page, no matter how many notes you had. Sometimes, you would like a lot of notes. Like the article below about my great-great-great-great grandparents. My mom said she always heard the story as a whole family of my great grandpa’s side drove across the lake and fell through the ice. Turns out it was too early for cars. And if the Potts had had their four year old daughter with them, I wouldn’t exist to write this blog now.

Article called “Sad Casualty” from the Adrian Evening Expositor, P2, Column 3, 30 Jan 1858:

A Mr. Potts and Mr. Thomas Hopkins, together with their wives, were drowned in Devil’s Lake Sunday last. They were worthy English people, and resided near the village of Addison, in this county. The parties were returning from afternoon church, in Rome, and undertook to cross the Lake on the ice. When about fifteen or twenty rods from the shore the ice gave away, and they were precipitated into the water, which was about ten feet in depth. The accident was witnessed from the shore by Mr. Daniel Curtis, who promptly seized a small boat, and pushed boldly out to the rescue. Pushing the boat on the ice, before him, he soon reached the struggling people, and succeeded in getting both men into his boat and was just in the act of drawing in one of the ladies on board when Hopkins becoming exhausted, fell, upsetting the boat, and again plunged the whole party into the water. Curtis, narrowly escaping the fate of his companions, drew himself upon the ice chilled and exhausted, too late to render further assistance.

Aid was soon obtained and the bodies were recovered, but not until life had become extinct.

The true heroism exhibited by Mr. Curtis in his perilous endeavor to save the sufferers, will not soon be forgotten by those who read this account of their sad fate.

I come and go with genealogy. Sometimes I have time work on it, sometimes I don’t. I have tried to always leave it in a condition where I can just pick it up again fairly easily. I created binders for each of my grandparent’s family names (that’s four) and the same for my husband (also four main families). I also have a couple of notebooks for great grandparents—I am not sure how that happened. I also have a box of things still to be filed.

For Christmas, I got a new laptop. I knew I would have to transfer my family tree files and program on to the new computer. I dreaded that. I searched for a new program I could buy. Ancestry.com’s Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic seemed to be the two most popular. I ruled out Family Tree Maker because, while someday I would like to buy a subscription to Ancestry.com, I definitely don’t want to be forced to. I found out I could download a free version of RootsMagic from their website. So far I am very happy with it. I lost a little information in the conversion, which is to be expected.

I can now actively place photos with my family tree factual information (which is also much more fun now that I have a scanner). There are oodles of fields to input information. My last program only had birth, marriage, death, address, and notes sections (address is the field that did not transfer:(. There is a handy index which makes navigation easy. The free version doesn’t offer all the print out choices of the paid version, but so far the ones I do have look great. I worry about how some of these nifty features will work out if I ever need to transfer this data into another program. But I will cross that bridge when I get there.

Here are some tips I have compiled from my limited experience.

Family Tree Research Tips:

1. Source the hell out of everything. Write down what you got and where you got it from. Everyone gives this advice, but it is really true. I have been lax on this element in the past. I am going back and trying to rectify that now. Luckily RootsMagic makes it a lot easier than in my old program. You could end up with three conflicting birth dates. Knowing the source will help you figure out why they are different and which one is most reliable.

2. Use “Favorites”. I am terrible at remembering how I came to find a certain website and how I found the info in front of me. I just make the page a favorite in my browser and I know I can return to it anytime later. You just have to go through occasionally and delete them as you no longer need them. I am bad about that part.

3. When you tour cemeteries, write down the info and also TAKE PICTURES. It is good to write down the info, as you can’t always tell what a tombstone says in a picture. Make sure you note if there is a veteran marker next to the main headstone. Taking pictures is a good idea because if you later question what you wrote, you can refer back to your pictures. Also, tombstones are only going to continue to deteriorate. If you can only read half of it now, in 10 years the other half could be unreadable as well.

I’m not stalking you. is NOW ON FACEBOOK! “Like” that I’m not stalking you and get an update when there is a new post to read. (It is sort of like YOU are stalking ME.)

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Personal Development « I'm not stalking you.

  2. Pingback: Ghost Trestle Letdown | I'm not stalking you.

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