clock-6I am happy to announce that today I received notice from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) that my portfolio which was submitted in mid-October has been deemed worthy of conferring onto me the title of Certified Genealogist. I am still a bit giddy.  I also realize that I will probably forget to do some critical thing in the “fog” of jubilation. As I am leaving on Sunday for Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), I am vulnerable to forget to pack all I need for their cold weather.  Yikes!

I will not stop this blog because I have reached this goal.  Like all goals, you need to develop the next before you have attained the last.  And, that is certainly true for me.  I will discuss goal assessment in the near future.

I thank all the readers for supporting this blog and my efforts to become certified.  With certification comes not only the pride of attaining a difficult goal, but also the responsibility to model to others the good work of a certified genealogist.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last blog post: I started bullet journaling because I found myself wasting a lot time and I needed a tool to keep me focused. Except for today– it’s done a good job. I listened to three webinars; attended an APG online discussion, developed my research plans for my trip to Salt Lake City and had lunch with a friend I had lost track of.  It’s been, for me, a good day.


Timelines for Analysis & Correlation

I love timelines and their “sibling,” tables. The use of timelines and tables was critical to my writing of the Case Study and the Kinship Determination Project for my BCG portfolio.  I even used a table in my document transcription and research plan. I found, however, that many people do not understand the power of placing information in an array and looking at it differently than in the narrative format.

I am very visually oriented — basically for me “pictures say 1,000,000 words!” I need timelines and tables to array my information so I can visualize the gaps, the overlaps and/or the relationships of one bit of information to another.  Without them, I try to construct the array in my head, which is not always the most reliable “canvass” on which to work!

Because of my intense interest in timelines and tables, I put together a presentation on the ways one might use timelines.  In this blog, I wanted to introduce you to some examples I used in the presentation. You can also use timelines to assist in story telling but I am not going to discuss that here.

jacobson-rm-person-pageEXAMPLE 1: I use timelines to identify gaps in my data. This may be as simple as looking at my RootsMagic individual report (left) to see if I have entered all the census reports that are available.[1]  It can assist in identifing if I have researched all the source types mentioned in Val Greenwood’s book, The Researcher’s Guide to American Research.[2]

slide1EXAMPLE 2: Another kind of gap is that of time. You might have two “fragments” of an individual which you believe is one person, but there is a significant gap in their timeline.  This was true for my Case Study where I had located my Swedish ancestor on the Handskhult (Hishult, Halland County) farm where he was a child and on the Rishult farm when he was an adult, but I was missing 10 years in the middle!  Could I link them or not?


slide1EXAMPLE 3: Another example of a timeline that expands and assists in analysis and correlation is one where there are many same named individuals without enough information to identify the unique individual who satisfies the known information. Fredrick Eilers is my “brick wall.” He is the second husband of my great great grandmother, Eda (van Hoorn) Berg. I have lots of information on Eda, but I also have a 7 year gap after the 1862 marriage to Fredrick. During that time the family moved from Illinois to Iowa, arriving in 1871. I developed a timeline for Eda and then aligned it with the timeline of known information of Fredrick, and then identified Fredrick Eilers in the Midwest who passed some minimal thresholds (old enough to marry, likely to have been in Stephenson County, IL). I am still bedeviled by the fact that I cannot identify the right Fred. Right now my research summary of this problem is 10 pages of places I have looked and not found.

slide1EXAMPLE 4: Some time ago J. Paul Hawthorne took his pedigree chart and colored it according to location of birth. That was interesting to do, but my pedigree chart is pretty boring–4 colors–Danish (red), Swedish (blue), Ostfriesen (olive) and Iowa (green). He then added the idea of time to the pedigree chart. I decided to look at that as well. I don’t know that I learned a lot from it, except it is obvious that my Danish and Swedish ancestors had their children who were my ancestors earlier than my Ostfriesens (who generally do not marry until age 26-30). You can tell that by seeing that the red and the blue pedigree chart areas are more compressed, i.e. same number of generations in less time, than the Ostfriesens in the olive. It is a fun exercise whether you gain deep insight or not.[3]

Hope you found these of interest.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I have reorganized my way of keeping track of my lectures/presentations. I needed to do this as I have over 27 presentations set up for this year and most are being given in the next 6 months. I have investigated four different software programs to assist and am seriously looking at AirTable. I have presented at SGS my “Making Timelines Work for You.” It was well received, but I need to tweak it more. In a week I will be going to Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) to take the course, “The Law Library” from Judy Russell. This course will assist me in using the law for genealogical purposes. In the meantime I have to develop a research plan for my time there. If I have some minutes for research I want to use my time wisely in the Family History Library.

[1] In my quick review of the Christian Jacobson person page I found I had not have the 1940 census for him recorded.  And I made a note to look at the 1935 Census of Business to see if his trucking company was covered in the enumeration.

[2] Val Greenwood, The Researcher’s Guide to American Research (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, Co., Inc. 1990), specifically Part 2.

[3] You can make one of these as well. use 1/4″ grid paper and use 10 years equals on square on the x-axis. For the primary person, start with 9 vertical or y-axis squares.  the next generation is 7 vertical squares. Calculate the overlap and work back to the year of birth.

Update: Age at death vs. Average Age at Death

statisticsThis is a update to my previous post on the average age at time of death for my ancestors. I wanted to verify my previous conclusions when I received a better source of average age data than I had used.  Thanks to Ginny S. for providing the link to the National Institutes of Health paper which looked at the average age statistics in the 1800s in multiple ways.[1]  You might find the article of interest as you write papers and analyze your family:

You can read the previous post by clicking here.

There were several observations I make about the article:

  1. It identified issues with the data collection that I had not considered before: such as the process for collection of data,  small sample sizes, the rural vs. urban dynamics, the east coast and racial bias, etc.
  2. Immigrants averaged a shorter life span in the US than native born whites in 1850. (Table 1, Ferrie, 1996.) The study did not, however, address the difference in the life span of those who stayed in the country of origin to those who immigrated. The rural differential was about 5%; the urban differential was about 18%.
  3. I was surprised that the life expectancy of a 20 year old in the US declined starting at the beginning of the 19th century until mid-century for both males or females.  There is then a slow increase in longevity; the average age does not exceed that of earlier in the century until after 1900!  (Table 1, Kunze, 1979; Pope, 1992)
  4. I was surprised that I didn’t see a more radical effect of the Civil War  in the 1860s. Twenty year old white men seemed to “hold their own” in the very low 40s. The effect of the CW is probably manifested in that during this time 20 year old white women’s life span became equal to men’s, where before it had consistently lagged by 2 years, plus or minus.
  5. The US Census mortality schedules (effective the year previous to the census year) under-reported deaths by perhaps as much as 40%, an interesting fact for genealogists, who cannot find their ancestor but feel like they should, in these non-population schedules. (15th paragraph in article after abstract.)

So, what about my data from the previous post? It appears that any differences between the “infoplease” data I used, and the NIH report are negligible, or supported my case more strongly that our family lived longer than average. My conclusions do not change and my family lived longer than average in all respects. The reasons for the extended life span were probably due to my ancestors being rural and not urban, less susceptible to communicable disease, reduction in pulmonary tuberculosis and other medical advances, etc.

Here is a summary of the immigrants in my family and why they were, as a whole became better off in the US.

My Swedes: This family emigrated in 1881 for religious reasons. They were Baptists in the land of Lutherans. The family’s safety net was the brother of the wife who had been in the US for 10 years prior to my family’s chain migration. Bengt Peter worked on the railroad for 10 years, earning enough money to buy a farm.

My Dane: Chris emigrated in the early 1900s as a young man and progressed from $5 in his pocket to owning his own business and two farms in Iowa. He had a safety net of a close friend with whom he stayed for two years before heading to northern Iowa.

My paternal Ostfriesens: emigrated in 1854 with money to buy a farm within 10 days of landing in Illinois. They were the wealthiest of all of my immigrants with much land and privilege in Ostfriesland, Germany. The males became the most formally educated of my ancestors. Marrying into this family is a young woman who was orphaned at an early age, immigrated with an unrelated family and married much younger than average into this wealthy family.

My maternal Ostfriesens: emigrated in 1864 (why, why, why would you do that!!), landed in Iowa and immediately bought a farm. But, another line within this family sector was not so advantaged.  The head of household of the Berg family died within 1.5 years of arrival, leaving the widow with 6 children under the age of 15.  She remarried, “disappeared” for 7 years and reappeared in 1871, a widow with sons who bought land all over the Midwest and daughters who married well.

I pause here for a moment to discuss my use of the word “wealthy.” By no means were these families members of the upper echelon of the society in the United States at this time, but rather they owned more land than they ever could in the country of origin. In addition, the amount of real estate and personal property indicated in agricultural schedules had a higher value when compared to their immediate neighbors. Even my great grandfather, a minister, died at the age of 55 with three farms.

So, it should be no surprise that my ancestors lived longer than the average of the time. I used to say that our family was “extraordinarily ordinary,” but I think that is no longer true. We were “privileged” from the time of their arrival–privileged with a strong work ethic, and a chain migration pattern leading them to settle in the rich land of Iowa and Illinois. That privilege does not negate the hard work, and tough times that the families endured to make the path a little smoother for their descendants. Their commitment to investment in land as a stabilizer in the family reflects their reaction to their inability to do the same in their country of origin.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: celebrated new years with family and friends and prepped my presentations for the new year. I have several new ones and so there was much work to do. I also prepped the presentations I have presented before for my very active first half of 2017.  I have also been recording and linking my findings from my summer trip to by database. There are hundreds of documents to record, transcribe, analyze and enter. I figure I am only about 25% through. (press on gladly!!  It’s my New Year’s resolution.)

[1] National Institute of Health, “Decennial Life Tables for the White Population of the United States, 1790 to 1900,” ( : accessed 2 January 2017).