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What I Learned A Year Ago – 3/17/13

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My Great Grandmother's tombstone

My Great Grandmother’s tombstone

A year ago today I was out documenting relatives in local cemeteries for my family tree research. Most of my relatives are dead, so this is the best way for me to gather information, although it can have inconsistencies and drawbacks just as much as an Internet search does.

"Grandma" is written on the back of this picture in pencil.  I believe this may have been Martha Elliot.  I am guessing the guy next to her is Phillip Bracey.

“Grandma” is written on the back of this picture in pencil. I believe this may have been Martha Elliot. I am guessing the guy next to her is Phillip Bracey. It is a great old picture, whoever these people are.

I was at the cemetery for a small, nearby town. I knew a lot of my father’s family was buried there. But then I just happened to walk by two flat headstones with different surnames than what I was specifically looking for. But, luckily, I saw them and recognized them! It was the tombstone of my dad’s maternal grandmother (my great-grandmother) and her second husband! All the information I had gathered from the Internet had led me to believe she was buried in Lucas County, Ohio somewhere. One of the next things on my to-do list was to try to figure out where she was buried. And here I had found her right under my nose!

This picture is labeled "Grandma & Grandpa Bracey".  But I think it is labeled by my mother, so she was either relying on what someone else told her, or the memory of what someone else told her.

This picture is labeled “Grandma & Grandpa Bracey”. But I think it is labeled by my mother, so she was either relying on what someone else told her, or the memory of what someone else told her.

And why am I telling you this, on St. Patrick’s Day? Because I believed it was a magical coincidence for me to have found her on St. Patrick’s Day, as she was of 100% Irish descent!

This picture says "Grandmother and Uncle Will" on the back.   I do believe Martha had a brother William.  But does this guy look like the old guy in all the other pictures too?  Hard to say.

This picture says “Grandmother and Uncle Will” on the back. I do believe Martha had a brother William. But does this guy look like the old guy in all the other pictures too? Hard to say.

Born Martha Elliott in Stone Ridge, Ohio, in 1861, both her parents had been born in Ireland. Martha married my great grandfather Alva Goodin around 1883. They had four kids together that I know of. One of them is my father’s mother, who I never knew. All these people died before I was born.

Alva left Martha to marry her younger sister Isabelle around 1893. They had three children together. I am guessing that would have been kind of scandalous back in the 1890’s.

Martha got remarried to Phillip Bracey sometime after 1892. They did not have any more kids that I know of. Most of this came from Internet research, that may be flawed. But for someone who just thought they were a mutt until just a few years ago, discovering I am 1/8 Irish is pretty exciting!

Phillip Bracey b.1855 d.1936

Phillip Bracey b.1855 d.1936       I think he may have had children from a previous wife.

If anyone stumbles across this post and actually has more info on my relatives for me, please leave me a comment on this page or send me a direct message on Facebook. I would be super-excited to hear from you!

"Taken on Grandma's 90th Birthday at Ray's-1951"

“Taken on Grandma’s 90th Birthday at Ray’s-1951”  Pretty sure that this would be Martha Elliot.

Personal Development

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In my spare unemployed time, I have been working on personal development. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I just have more time to find out about these opportunities being offered. And I don’t have to rush home from a job an hour away to get to them on time. And I am not too exhausted from working 40 hours a week, commuting 10 hours a week, and running my mom’s errands, and doing housework to attend.

I have gone to meetings about genealogy. One was about the basics, which I am already beyond. But that meeting did provide me with the suggestion for the new software I am currently using. The next one I went to was a tour of genealogy resources at the Lenawee County Historical Museum. It helped, but I would need to dive in myself to really understand what is there and how it is indexed, organized, etc. But it was very nice to get out of the house child-free and spend a few hours with other adults who talk about adult things. Of course, recently I haven’t had time to work on my family tree stuff. Spring cleaning is taking up all my time.

Last week I went to SKYWARN weather spotter training. The website says that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s “National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established SKYWARN.” When I went I wasn’t even sure if it was to be a weather spotter, but it turns out it was. If you read Tuesday’s post, you know I have an interest in severe weather. I don’t feel any more knowledgeable than before I went, but they gave me an awesome weather booklet and the secret spotter call-in number. They spent a lot of time on storm cloud formation. Which is good, except I live in the city and am surrounded by trees and other houses. By the time I see a cloud it is usually directly overhead. So, I feel like I could be a more useful spotter if I lived out in the country, but whatever. It makes me feel important.

I love how the booklet says things like “Personal safety is the primary objective of every spotter.” But then the booklet is filled with awesome photos of tornadoes people took while driving around in their cars in weather they shouldn’t be out in. It is like they give you the disclaimer so that they won’t get sued, but they know if you are a weather spotter you have an interest in this and will probably be out in a storm anyway.

One thing I always said I would do if I had free time was to volunteer at the Lenawee Humane Society. But I can’t really do that right now because I would have to take my son with me. Plus, I am sour on LHS at the moment (not their dog care skills or facility, just how they run their fundraising events). And I am sour on dogs, because Parker is becoming unbearable to live with.

My husband is doing personal development too. He has never been confident in his reading/writing skills. He believes the public school system failed him, and I think he may be right (more about our complaints about the school system in a future post). I knew this, so last fall when I saw an ad in the newspaper about free tutoring opportunities, I showed it to him. He got very excited. He called a few days later. Normally he would procrastinate and probably never call at all. Over the years, he has tried buying workbooks, etc., to try to teach himself, but with no real success. They gave him a test at the literacy center. He actually tested high enough that he wasn’t eligible for the program. But one of the tutors was nice enough to agree to help him anyway. See, he reads and writes well enough to get by. But with his new job, it would be great if his skills were elevated to say, what you should know when you graduate high school (which he did). Details are important in his new job. I am hoping the tutoring helps him with that.

All this and raising an almost 18 month-old too. Oy. I guess if you are positive (as in attitude) about the things you like, opportunities to expand your knowledge of them will come along. Who knows, maybe this year I will get to attend Word Camp. (That would be awesome!)

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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.’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, 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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