Step-by-Step: My Intractable Problem

nose in bookA dose of my own medicine! On 12 February I blogged about steps to solve problems using a research plan. But, I think an example is so much better to illustrate the value of compiling our work, especially when we are trying to solve our intractable genealogical problems. This post outlines, step-by-step, how I built a research plan using the methodology outlined in the blog post “Strategic Thinking: A Research Plan.”

I admit I have done much research on my Friedrich Eilers (FE), some of it targeted and some of it “grazing.” This is my attempt to formalize the output, focus on the process and give my some research discipline.

As we know the Genealogical Proof Standard exhorts us to do reasonably exhaustive “REsearch,” not exhaustive “search.” The implication is, of course, that “researching” is far more disciplined and expects the genealogist to select the record sets that are most likely to provide the needed information.

I am seeking to identify Friedrich Eilers, who was the groom in the second marriage to my great-grandmother Eda/Ida (van Hoorn) Berg in October of 1861 and who after November 1862 was never referred to again in any known document in connection with my family.

I have taken the steps from the previous post and sequentially attached the report as I built it-step-by-step.  To make it easier for you to see what I added, I have changed the type face to red for the items that apply to that particular step of this methodology and which have been added after the previous document. Let’s see how it works.

Phase 1: Recording all you know.

1. Start fresh. Act (and think) like you have never seen this problem before.
comment: I took a yoga class and focused on “dispassionate observation.” It works for me.
document: be-rp-1

2. Clearly state your research question and write it down. Make your individual of interest unique in the world using the “known facts of the case.” Write your question at the top of a blank document. Make it 14 pt. font and bold.
comment: I make research questions very specific in the description of the individual. Keep in mind that identity comes before relationships. If I want to know the parents of X, I first have to clarify the identity of X. Therefore, I usually start with “Identify X who did so-and-so and such-and-such.” I don’t think I make great research questions, so you are on your own here.
document: be-rp-2

3. Gather together every shred of evidence that you already have that relates to the individual or his/her relatives, business associates etc.
comment: I don’t have much, but I was surprised at how many documents I needed to get the timeline filled with the pertinent sources.
documents: I did this concurrently with no. 4 below.

4. Document by document, write what you know, based on what you have. Start with the citation and then summarize what is contained within the source. Transcribe and abstract any documents with handwriting. If your document is a census, record the neighbors of at least 10 families in each direction. Label this section “Background.”
comment: I have followed Ida for years, but I looked at everything again. Notice that there is a gap between 1864 and 1871 where I have nothing.
document: be-rp-4

5. Note whether the “thing you are holding in your hand,” the source, is an original, derivative or authored work; whether the information is primary, secondary, or indeterminable; and whether the evidence is direct, indirect or negative in response to your research question. Don’t stop with just categorizing your documents. Instead, analyze the quality of your sources.  If there is a need and ability to obtain a better record, i.e. closer to the event, enter it on your Research Plan.
comment: This implies that you have a Research Plan set up already on your document. If you haven’t done so, type a heading of “Research Plan” at the bottom of your document. Record your sources you need to obtain to improve the quality of the ones you have.
document: be-rp-5

6. As you are doing no. 5 above, identify all FAN Club members and place in a table with the date of interaction and the role your ancestor played in that interaction. Label this “FAN Club.” keep the interactions in chronological order–you are building a timeline.
comment:  My FAN Club consists of people who have interacted with Ida but not with Friedrich. I have no known FAN Club members for FE, but that’s what we are trying to solve. Should I find any, that will be a huge clue.
document: be-rp-6

7. Add known dates of importance of your individual of interest to your timeline. Depending on your problem, there may be [timelines of] other key individuals (in a separate column) you wish to add to your timeline [of your person of interest].
comment:  FE gets added with the hope I can fill out more information about FE candidates as I begin to research. I didn’t make red the whole table, but you get the idea.
document: be-rp-7

8. If appropriate, take your timeline and expand it to a table, which includes all people you think might be relevant to your investigation–family, candidates for identity (for example, all your possible John Smiths), business partners, and other members of the FAN Club you developed in item 7 above. Add their events to their timeline as well.
comment: For now, without doing the actual research, I anticipate that I will have multiple candidates for FE. A German name in a German area cannot be unique.
document: be-rp-8

Phase 2: Research researching

9.  Identify the sources that are most likely to yield salient information based on what you know. Add the list to your document and label this ”Research Plan.” Each resource should include a draft of the citation. Put the citation in bold.
comment: I already had five sources I needed to obtain by the time I finished with the known information, so I reprioritzed and added to the list of five. Certainly some of these could fall off the list as I gain more information. A basic principle of research is that you start in the US, yet my biggest clue is the birthplace in Germany, Ober Gleen. That’s a bit of a conundrum.
document: be-rp-9

10. Review Part 2 of Val Greenwood’s book for a list of types of sources.  Place “likely suspects” on your research plan.
comment: I know Stephenson County pretty well and some documents just do not exist, e.g. newspapers before 1890. Greenwood lists the following: newspapers, vital records, censuses, probate records, wills, guardianships, land (local and federal), other court records, church records, military and cemetery and burial records. I believe that I have either addressed by placing on my research plan or exhausted all these more typical records. I have added a narrative at the bottom of the document for the searches in each record type so I have an explanation of why I am not pursuing those sources.  It would be better if I had these as citations. In the future, I need to move some of my past research log information over to fill this out.
document: be-rp-10

11. Read the FamilySearch wiki for your particular locality for additional resources. [2]
comment: The FS wiki is a go-to place for me for locality research. Research every jurisdictional level: country, state, county, court. If you do a lot of research in one area, consider writing a locality guide so you don’t lose all this fabulous work you are doing. consider also Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium.
document: be-rp-11

12. Conduct a locality or topical search in Family Search and Ancestry catalog (this is different than the wiki mentioned  in 11.) Click through every entry in the catalog to identify film you ought to order or if the film has been indexed or uploaded and not indexed.
comment: I have looked at the Ober Gleen Family Search catalog before, but now I see that FS has added an index! This is a very “bright shiny object” for me and I must, for now, let it go. I need to complete these other tasks before I get to points 14 and 15. Your Research Plan might be getting quite long right now.
document: be-rp-12

13. Review the National Genealogical Society (NGS) States series to determine if your state is included. These wonderful books are an overview of resources and repositories that are state specific and which include archives and repositories you may not have thought of. Record any likely repositories.
comment: Illinois has a terrific state series book but I wonder if I am over looking the surrounding states?  Stephenson County is on the border of Wisconsin; could FE have lived in WI and been visiting or doing business in Freeport for some other reason? I think I need to widen my area of focus–but that will be for another day.
document: be-rp-13

Phase 3: Researching
To this point, we have just been building (adding to) our research plan, now we start looking at some of the resources we identified.

14. Based on your research plan, conduct the research of your top priority source. If you think of a new resource to check, just add it to your research plan in priority order. Always write out a skeleton citation.
comment: The bright shiny object calls!! 
confession:  There are two approaches: I could look in census records in the US or look in the Ober Gleen birth records. The census records are hard because there is so little information–I don’t even have a birth year for Friedrich.  Assuming there are multiple FEs in Ober Gleen, I am going to work the Ober Gleen records first and fill out the table that is in landscape mode. 

15. Do your on site research. If you cannot travel, then enlist a friend or hire a genealogist in the area. Revisit your research plan and add new sources (as citations) as they are identified.
comment: And just like they show on television– I hopped on a plane and flew to Salt Lake City to meet with the German expert.  I (driving a big black SUV) found a parking place right in front of the library! No one was in the library except for THE expert on Ober Gleen records (probably Fritz Juengling!).  He already had found what i was looking for, translated it and gave me a very nice Family Group Sheet and pedigree chart scribed in lovely calligraphy–NOT! 🙂
document: be-rp-15

Findings at this point, are the following:

There is only one Friedrich Euler/Eiler who appeared in this time frame in Ober Gleen. He is my top candidate. The rest of the Fred/Fritz/etc. Eilers/Eilerts etc. just do not have the Ober Gleen connection that is so necessary for this resolution.

  1. It is not known where Friedrich Euler was born. he does not appear in the Ober Gleen birth records; however, from the point of the birth of his first child in 1842 to his emigration in 1860, Ober Gleen appeared to be his residence.
  2. Friedrich Euler and  Gertraud Schoenhals had six children, five of which were born before they married.
  3. Friedrich Euler and Gertraud Schoenhals finally married in 1855
  4. Friedrich immigrated in 1860 to Illinois. It is not known why he picked Illinois as no FAN Club member has yet been identified as living in Illinois and he appeared to travel alone.
  5. Friedrich married Eda Berg in 1861 in Stephenson County, Illinois.
  6. Gertraud and the children emigrated in August/September of 1862.
  7. Eda used the Eyler surname in November of 1862 and then never used it again.
  8. In 1872, son John (Johannes, b. 1848) married Rosina Hoffman in Stephenson County, firmly placing at least one family member in the county.
  9. There is no divorce noted in Stephenson County for FE and IB.

16. Order those FHL films you identified in your catalog review or better yet, take a trip to Salt Lake City and do your research there in the company of research experts who can help.
comment: I am going to quit now. I have other things to do, but I have made real progress on this “intractable problem.” There are many things yet to research before any conclusions can be drawn, but I have built a great summary document to build upon in the future.

17. Re-conduct old research. We are smarter now then we were five years ago.
comment: When I was a baby genealogist I was told to “really study your sources so you got all the information from them.” What people didn’t tell me is that it didn’t matter how good I thought I was THEN, I am better now and you probably do have to re-review your sources, especially those related to your tough problems.

18. Check the family trees in Family Search and Ancestry. Yes, I know they are rift with errors and are usually undocumented, but they can offer clues and should be used.
comment: In looking at the trees, no one identified that Friedrich and Gertraud emigrated.  They recognize that Johannes and Heinrich did, but no one connects the passenger lists of the family or Friedrich. So the trees, for this study did not provide any clues i could build on.  

19. Record ALL searches, including those that yield nothing. Constantly update your research plan. Record all your findings including your negative searches. Label these Negative Findings.
comment: This is the part that can really help you, should you have to put the research down to do other things–like laundry.  I am not satisfied with how the research paper ends…it is rather messy and needs some work to gather the information together in a more coherent form. But, that, too, is for another day.

20. Repeat.

What you have now, even if you did not solve your problem is a document which:

  1. Documents your  known information
  2. Identifies gaps in your existing sources
  3. Sets you up for the analysis of your documents
  4. Serves as a summary of your work to date and even if you set it down, you will have this terrific record of your findings for later
  5. Records where you searched and found nothing so you won’t redo that work, unless you decide to re-energize no. 17, and
  6. Outlines your next steps

Whew! If you got to the end of this blog–congratulations!  You get the gold star.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post: worked on this blog! I also conducted the second session of the online Certification Discussion Group; worked on a client report, and worked in “fits and starts” on my DNA problem.

[1] A gentleman in a presentation I gave on determining identity asked “He’s a second husband with no children, why do you even care?” My response was, “Friedrich Eilers is an itch I cannot scratch.”

[2] FamilySearch wiki:



Home again!

jacobson-chris-funeral-arrangementsI have now arrived home and am faced with the work of analyzing the mounds of information which I “harvested” on my trip through the Midwest. “Harvest” is the best word, because I recognize that my itinerary and timeline did not allow me to take as much care as I might want with each document at the time I gathered it.

So how will I do this?

  1. I have to focus on my portfolio for certification; therefore, I will separate the items which pertain to the portfolio first.  There are three documents or sets which are important:
    1. Naturalization papers (first and final papers) of John/Jan Cornelius Bode.
    2. Church papers from Christian Reformed Church, Leighton, Iowa, founded by my ancestor in 1895. This is a more arduous task as transcription may be in order and there are many pages.  It is possible also that nothing from these documents will make the portfolio.
    3. Study the will I found in courthouse and compare to online version which I am using in my transcription element of my portfolio. They are different, but how different?
    4. Negative findings are important too.  I have to figure out how these work into my paper.
  2. I need to incorporate my new findings about Dirk Bode into my “Finding Dirk!” presentation which I am giving in October.
    1. New photos taken at the Peoria site of the buildings
    2. New photos taken of the grave of Dirk
    3. information from the conservator
    4. Information found in the probate and conservator packet including that the family visited Dirk while in the asylum, sent Christmas presents annually and “pin money” for him.
  3. Everything else.
    1. Scads of deeds, photos and even the funeral director’s notes on the automobile procession for my grandfather’s funeral (see above.) [1]
    2. Newspaper notices of the bankruptcy of my grandfather, particularly the loss of his bank in 1931/1932. (Note to self: actual court documents may be in NARA in St. Louis.)
    3. Investigation of the individuals at the Elgin Insane Asylum, looking for evidence of PTSD.
    4. Article on what one might find in court minutes at the county level. (I have no idea who might like to publish this one.)

I think that’s enough for a while!  (Couple the above with a 1 week vacation in the San Juans with friends from OK, a 3 part Beginning Swedish Genealogy class starting October 26 and a number of Saturday presentations and seminars, including one in Indiana with Anne Staley–I think I will have a very busy Fall.)

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  traveled to Seattle–14 hours of driving time from my brother’s place in WY.  And unpacking the car–which is no mean feat when you realize I have been living out of it for six weeks. I am glad to be home, as is my cat!

[1] Kenneth F. Boughton, “Funeral Arrangements,” notes for the procession for Mrs. Chris Jacobson, (MS, Britt, Iowa, 7 September 1941); privately held by Betty (Jacobson) Anderson, [address for private use,] Downers Grove, Illinois, 2016. Ms. Anderson is the daughter of Mrs. Chris “Emma” (Anderson) Jacobson.

Repositories I Know & Love!

deeds-in-courthouse-iaI have been on a research “sabbatical” for six weeks this summer, traveling from Seattle to Chicago and back. As I traveled, I researched my family in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.  The trip was a testament to the need to look beyond the internet to find information about our ancestors.

I’d like to say that I was super prepared for each repository and had a written plan for each I visited. But, that would be a lie. Sometimes I had a written plan–3-4 items I wished to find, but sometimes, I was thinking about it on the drive to the building. The latter “Last Minute Planning” did not occur often. I did identify a problem that each repository could possibility assist with; I usually knew what specific record I wanted and I had a methodology for taking notes (the latter I will cover in a blog post later.)

I had some basic themes:

  • find naturalization records for:
    • my paternal grandfather (Chris Jacobson) and
    • my maternal great great grandfather (John C. Bode).
    • my maternal great grandfather (Hendrik J. Bode)
  • Obtain probate records for Henry Bode and church records in Leighton, Iowa.
  • Verify residence of Eda Berg and her family between 1862 and 1871.

Here is a list of all the repositories I visited. There is only one that I visited “online” while on the road!

  1. BYU Harold Lee Library, Provo, Utah: in my previous post I noted that I should have done research here, but didn’t know the extent of their holdings until too late.  Oh, well.  That happens too.
  2. Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America Library, Minneapolis, MN: New this year was the index to the “Quellen und Forschungen”, the journal of the genealogical society in Ostfriesland’s journal. I was excited as this journal is very difficult to search since there is  not even an index for individual issues and it is written in German. OGSA also had the new Weener OSB. Result? No findings for the “fam” in Q & F (surprising because they owned land.) and nothing new in the OSB.
  3. Newspaper archives of the Britt News-Tribute, held by the Summit newspaper system in Forest City, IA: Great success here! Found my grandfather’s declaration of bankruptcy and my other grandfather’s first advertisement for his new business. While these are filmed, it was far easier to skim the originals as the films were so dark.
  4. Hancock County IA Courthouse: Good documentation here.  No naturalization of my paternal grandfather, but picked up lots of deeds and probate records.
  5. Garner, IA, Public Library: newspapers, plat maps. They had the newspapers from number 3 above on film, but they were too dark to read.
  6. Hardin County Courthouse: This repository was a goal. Probate, deeds and naturalizations. LOTS of deeds here. A deed with my great grandmother’s name established her residency in the county in December of 1871, a previously undocumented date. Now, why can’t I find them in the 1870 census?
  7. Cerro Gordo County Courthouse: Went looking for my grandfather Jacobson’s naturalization records but they had been moved to library. See no. 8.
  8. Mason City Public Library: naturalizations (Grandfather’s naturalization not there. I have now narrowed my repositories down to 97 counties in which to look!)
  9. Wright County Court house in Clarion, IA: found some land records.
  10. Grundy County Courthouse in Grundy Center, IA: Found the probate for my great grandfather in this surprise location. See no. 19 below. I also found, land deeds and naturalizations of collaterals.
  11. Wellsburg, IA Public Library: general genealogical search of collection; I thought they had tax assessments. of the county They did…for the wrong years & the wrong township; others thrown away. But, I had some fun conversations with two Ostfriesen cousins.
  12. Butler County Courthouse in Allison, IA: Found probate, and deeds
  13. Franklin County Courthouse in IA: Probate, deeds and naturalizations. Found that great grandfather (Ryke Berends Rykena) was certified insane by court late in life and son was named guardian.  Access to these records was, of course, restricted . Next task: figure out the access laws for Iowa mental health records.  (Note to self: probably dementia.)
  14. Northern District Bankruptcy Court in Cedar Rapids, IA: I looked for bankruptcy records of John Bode. Clerk stated that records were moved and then thrown away after they were moved to KC NARA. That sounded suspicious.
  15. [Online] NARA catalog in Kansas City, MO: for bankruptcy documents (need to check more thoroughly, but may have bankruptcy documents that no. 14 thought were thrown away.)
  16. Iowa State Historical Society in Iowa City, IA: Iowa has two state repositories and the collections are not exactly identical! I had just a little time in Iowa but more time in Des Moines. While in Iowa HS, I first identified if the record was also available in Des Moines (no. 17 below).  Since I had scheduled more time in DM, I postponed any research that I could do there.  I found a terrific dissertation on the banking crisis from 1929 to 1933 from an Iowa perspective.  My grandfather’s bank one of 7000 private banks in the country in 1930; his bank failed in 1931/2. This was not “research”, which implies analysis.  This was “harvesting.”
  17. Iowa State Historical Society in Des Moines, IA: Spent laborious time looking for the naturalization records of my paternal grandfather Jacobson. There are 99 counties in Iowa. I reviewed the naturalization records of seven of them.  Knowing that my grandfather was also not naturalized in Hancock means I have 91 to go.
  18. Des Moines Genealogical Society Library in Des Moines, IA: The Library is located across the street from the Historical Society. Susan gave me a very nice tour of their holdings.  Alice (CG), Rikkie (on-the-clock) and I discussed certification.  What I needed was in the Iowa State Historical Society (no. 17 above) so I did no research at the GS, but I did put a donation in the cup.
  19. Mahaska County Courthouse in Oskaloosa, IA: I was looking for probate and land records here and found nothing.  I thought that Henry might have owned a farm or a house in Lieghton (pronounced “Lie-ton”) but it appears that they either used a parishioner’s house or a house bought by the congregation. No probate here but I found the probate packet for him in no. 10 above.
  20. Christian Reformed Church in Leighton, IA: Big time win here! Henry, Ed and Dorothy were so helpful!  I was given the deluxe tour of the church and although the original church had been torn down, my guides showed me the items that had moved from the original church where my great grandfather preached, including the Bible.  Then, we went to the bank and rooted around in their original church books. Good people.
  21. Swenson Research Center in Rock Island IL: This was a short stop but Jill Seaholm was very gracious, giving me an indepth tour of the research area and stacks.  Interesting to talk to her about what they accept and reject.  Came away with some great additions for the SGS library. My goal was to meet Jill and establish a relationship. Goal achieved.
  22. Stephenson County IL Court house, in Freeport IL: BINGO! Although I found nothing on the elusive Freidrick Eilers, I found the naturalization of my maternal great grandfather.  But, the big coup–they handed me the probate packets for Dirk Bode (insane). My presentation on insanity just got an added dimension.
  23. Freeport Public Library: (a bit of a stretch to count this one) hot and humid outside and so I decided to visit the FPL. I researched derivative naturalization for children in the 1800s.  My great great grandfather got his citizenship on 13 December 1859 and my great grandfather was just 14 at the time!  He and his siblings became citizens using “derivative naturalization”.
  24. Bartonville IL (Peoria) Hospital cemetery for the mentally ill, in Peoria, IL: Memorable surprise find here! Is a cemetery a repository?  It is when it has my ancestor who was confined to an asylum for his entire adult life. Death certificate not found….anywhere. only two “documents” give direct evidence of his death– a probate document in Stephenson County and his tombstone.
  25. Bartonville IL (Peoria) Museum:  I found some great maps which showed which buildings were present when Dirk was there. Christine was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and changed my view of what happened to Dirk. There really are no records available for Dirk.  They do not exist because they were thrown away years ago.
  26. Abraham Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL: The presidential library has many newspapers and I reviewed several looking for the elusive Friedrick Eilers (not found), and the original newspaper of the obituary i have (not found) and references to Eda Berg and her family (nada, nothing).
  27. Illinois State Archive: This was a late add to the list.  The WPA transcribed court minutes for Stephenson County in 1940. These records are held at the Illinois State Archives.  I had a great time reviewing these records.  While I learned lots about the community, I found no Bergs, Bodes or Eilerts.
  28. This is totally a late add:  Why didn’t I think of my Aunt Betty!  My cousin and I poured over her albums and loose papers.  I even found the mortuary’s folder which included who would drive the cars to the cemetery, who would be in which cars and the order of the procession.

How did I do?

  • naturalization records for:
    • my paternal grandfather (Chris Jacobson) : not found
    • my maternal great great grandfather (John C. Bode) found
    • my maternal great grandfather (Hendrik J. Bode): his was a derivative naturalization
  • Obtain probate records for Henry Bode and any church records: found
  • Verify residence of Eda Berg and her family between 1862 and 1871: no new info except a verification of their residence in Iowa in late 1871..


Bonus items received but not anticipated:

  • Probate and conservator packets on Dirk Bode
  • seeing Dirk Bode’s tombstone
  • holding Henry Bode’s Bible and seeing his lecturn.

It’s been a great trip!  I am now mentally to head home.  I will be leaving the conference on Saturday and heading back to Seattle.

Happy hunting!



OTC Quick Tip! Document Work

For those of you on the clock (OTC)….

One of the portfolio submission requirements is to transcribe, abstract and develop a research plan for two documents–one that is BCG supplied and one that is a personal choice.

BK NC Research LearyHave you read North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History? [1] Helen F.M. Leary, CG, FASG, editor,  does a super job of laying out strategies for assessment of documents in Chapter 2.”Designing Research Strategies,” co-authored with Lee Albright. Two types of genealogists might find this book of interest….those who are beginning their genealogical careers and those who want to verify their work by consulting with “a master.”

This  is a great resource  and I am starting to use it more and more.  Did I mention that I don’t even have North Carolina ancestors?—my folks traveled straight away from NYC into the Midwest, but this book is a terrific resource for all aspects of genealogy.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: Worked on the program for the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society biennial conference, presented to a Mercer Island retirement group, and worked on my case study and took a new client….my first related to house histories.

[1] Helen F.M. Leary, CG, FASG, ed., North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2nd ed. (Raleigh: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996)

You can buy the book new for $55 from the NCGS.  I got mine used. Here is the link to the Society:

NGS 2015: “Take-Aways”

I like to ask each attendee at my presentations to identify one of their “take-aways”–those ideas or thoughts which resonated strongly with them.  These “take-aways” (TA) are often just a couple of comments related to each presentation. By writing them down, the attendee will better remember something about the presentation and I can tell what portion of the presentation was important to that particular attendee.  Those thoughts give me ideas about the parts I should emphasize the next time I give it.

2015 NGS crowdSo here are some of the sessions I attended at NGS and my “take-aways.”  The non-genealogists who read this blog might find the variety of the titles interesting.  The genealogist who attended NGS this year might compare their TAs with mine. And, the genealogists who didn’t attend might want to put the NGS conference on their “bucket list” for next year (Fort Lauderdale FL, 4-7 May 2016)

“Iowa: Fields of Genealogical Opportunity” (Marieta Grissom):  a general overview of the resources of the state of Iowa presented by the writer of the NGS Series on the States.

TA: there are numerous small repositories in the state but I feel that I have exhausted most of the relevant ones; the author missed the Ostfriesen collection in Wellsburg, Iowa. And you have to love the Iowa censuses.

“Analyzing Deeds and Wills: I See What It “Says” But What Does it “Mean”?” (Elizabeth Shown Mills):

TA: One of the best presentations i attended; she wrings information out of a deed.  It gave me lots of hints about how to systematically review a deed for my portfolio.

Transcriptions, Abstraction & the Records” (David McDonald).  Transcription and abstraction is a critical skill for a genealogist.

TA: Narrow the focus of the research question associated with the document, e.g “why is the grantor selling the land?” As you do a research plan, make sure you indicate where (repository) you would probably find the information.  A “gold star” presentation.

“So You Think You Want to Get Married: Marriage Records, Laws and German Customs” (Baerbel K. Johnson):

TA: Unfortunately what I remember is that the speaker was not feeling well and coughed through the entire presentation.  The presentation was on customs of Bavaria, a much different area than Ostfriesland.  Ostfriesland’s freedoms, tho’ limited in this same time period (1800s), were more liberal than Bavaria’s, e.g. individuals had a greater ability to move around and had lesser stigma associated with illegitimacy.

“Overcoming Surprising Research Barriers: A Case Study” (Tom Jones)

TA:  another memorable session on research plans and their development; this will also be applicable to my BCG portfolio.

“Introduction to Tracing your Czech Roots” (Amy Wachs)

TA: Hubby’s background on his maternal side is Czech.  This gave me a great background of some readily available records. Unfortunately, the presenter felt compelled to treat the audience like they had never done any genealogical research and spent the first 45 min. discussing US records.  I would have appreciated a little different balance but there were probably others in the audience who felt it was very appropriate.

“A Methodology for Irish Emigration to North America” (David Rencher): Head of FamilySearch and an excellent presenter.

TA: David presented a very interesting statistical approach to determining the most likely parish within a County to investigate to find your ancestor.   I am hoping this may help my friend who does not know the parish of birth of her ancestor but knows he came from County Roscomman.

That was the first two days.  There were still two days to go!  No wonder I came back energized and exhausted.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I have worked with about 6 or the 8 authors for the next SGS Bulletin to get documents to the editor for proofing.  I also set up the template for the Bulletin, changing what I could for this issue, etc. I want to publish before I go to a conference the end of June.  Also, realized I had forgotten to send a contract to Cape Cod/Falmouth so worked on that and I submitted my 6 proposals to Ohio Genealogical society for their 2016 conference.  Getting excited for Jamboree.

Photo: taken by the author prior to the live streaming session of Alison Hare, “A Time of Cholera: A Case Study about Context,” another gold star presentation.  Read the book about the topic: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.

Dirk Jans Bode: Receipt of Mental Health Records!

elginA week ago I received a wonderful and early Christmas present!  I was informed that Circuit Court Judge Villa in Kane County, Illinois, had agreed to release the mental health records of my great grand uncle Dirk Jans Bode to me.  I have blogged before about Dirk who was a patient  in the Illinois asylums for the insane between the years of 1872 to 1905 when he died at Bartonville. (See Dirk Jans Bode: Requesting Mental Health Records.)

This weekend I received the documents from his time in the Elgin and Jacksonville asylums.

The judge, however, has placed restrictions on my usage of the material.  I can only reference or quote the content in scholarly/historical work or in my presentations.  So, as much as I would like to think of my blog as “scholarly”—it’s a tough sell!  Therefore, I will not be discussing the specific content in this blog.

I previously had wondered about who brought him to the asylum-just the sheriff?  –his brother (my great grandfather)?  Was Dirk ever well enough to work on the farm? What were the exact dates he went into Jacksonville and how long did he stay until he entered Elgin? What is “chronic mania,” the diagnosis in the DDD [1], and how did it manifest itself?  The DDD said he had two attacks–what did that mean?  I certainly haped the case book, a ledger for the year 1897 to 1898, would include notes about his condition over time. And, of course, I wondered if his behavior was so bad that he needed restraints.  He died at a rather young age, 55–what did he die of?  Neither the State nor the county has a death certificate for him.   So, lots of questions for which I was hoping for answers.

So, if you want more information, you will have to wait until I complete the article I wrote earlier this year and get it published or wait until I present on procurement of mental health records in Illinois. I suspect the article won’t get completed for a few months (I have a little on my plate right now! 🙂 ) and I have never been asked to make a presentation on mental health records procurement, so that is “down the road.” It would make a good talk.

I was hoping I could share with you what I found in the records, but I cannot.  However, I am very excited with what I did receive!

And, just so you know–the first thing I did was transcribe the documents.  Some of them are hard to read because the copies are bad but the handwriting is beautiful and generally easy to read.  I was not provided with great source information.  Some of the sheets were stapled out of order and one appeared to have the date column on the left side not copied, rendering it impossible to determine where it fit in the sequence of the other pages of the report.  One asylum contributed no documents but the response says they are still looking.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: not too much.  I have written a lot of posts in the past week and a half.

[1] 1880 U.S. census, Kane County, Illinois, Dependent, Delinquent and Defective non-population Schedule, Elgin, Northern Illinois Asylum for the Insane, Dirk J. Bode; image, ( : accessed 15 November 2014), citing NARA micropublication Roll .

[2] Photo  of the Northern Illinois Asylum for the Insane, c. 1882, Elgin, Illinois, is from the collection of Bill Briska, Elgin, Illinois, who granted me permission for its use.

Selection of the Familial line for the KDP

bode Fam3I have struggled with the selection of the familial line for the Kinship Determination Project (KDP) for my certification portfolio.  Only recently I have come to a final conclusion and I thought I would share my thought process.

Step 1: selected my proof topic

I do not have a lot of complicated proofs; most lend themselves to proof summaries.  I do not have ancestors that were in this country before 1850 (the “tick mark censuses) and the village of origin was pretty clearly stated by all immigrants during their lifetime and it was corroborated by direct evidence in the original parish records.  Few (almost none) screwed up their birth dates or divorced and changed their names etc.  I have a few “problems” that fall outside that norm so I selected one of just the few.  It is in my Swedish side of the family.  This eliminated this line for consideration in other items for the portfolio due to the requirement that there be familial no overlap.

Step 2: selected the KDP lineage

This was more difficult.  I had many choices but none seemed to be a story I wanted to tell.  I listened to Judy Russell’s BCG presentation on KDPs (not yet online) and was inspired to look for the story.  Then serendipity stepped in.  While flying back from a business trip, I read the assigned article for the NGSQ study group for October.  I finished that article  and idly went on to read the next.  About half way through that article I realized that the organization of article was similar to one I could use for my KDP.  The organization was so clear and carefully laid out, I got very excited.  It followed an immigrant to the United States with two additional generations. Since my family entered the US starting in the mid-1800s, any three generation study almost had to include an immigrant.

I pulled out my computer (not easy with the leg room you have on an airplane these days) and wrote out the outline in generic form.  Then, using the generic outline, I outlined each familial line that I could use for the KDP.  I laid out four options; two were quickly deleted from consideration. Two remained. I developed each a little more and decided on my mother’s paternal line from the immigrant forward.  That lineage seemed to layout easier and better than the others. It was also one I could get excited about writing.  I had already decided to do a descending genealogical summary because the layout of the summary seems easier for me to understand.  I get lost with the ascending type.

Step 3: select the document for transcription

Now you can select the document for transcription.  I had tried to select this first and had a couple of documents transcribed.  I just combed through my exhibits and picked one where I had not used that family line for other work.  That was the one I used.

Step 4: start identifying gaps

The three generation KDP was going to involve a grand-uncle who I had done some work on but not enough.  He is rather famous and so I started looking for his papers which I found in Special Collections all over the Midwest.  Fun!  I now feel I have a good plan with few gaps.  The Case Study (proof argument) is also missing some information which I hope to gather at SLC when I go in January.

So that’s what I did.  Your path will differ because your parameters are different.  Nevertheless, a plan going forward is a great relief. I also would love to get started writing but a few other things are intervening.  I can tell I need to prioritize my portfolio which I am not doing a very good job at…..yet.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  The month I publish the SGS Bulletin is always one with few postings.  I just cannot get that much done and still get paid in my day job!  The Bulletin is now to the mailing service and I am very proud of it–we themed it on the Ethnic Communities of the Northwest.  Five writers wrote on Native Americans, African Americans, Nordic, Japanese and Chinese.  Starting on 8 November, I am speaking 3x at the Washington Family History Fair 2014, SGS (the 9th), the University of Washington Retirees Association (the 10th) and to the Stillaquamish Genealogical Society (the 11th).  Whew!– I am totally psyched!  This will be so much fun. (all that speaking in high school speech contests is paying off!)  I checked out a book called Sustainable Genealogy: Solving your Family Myths and Legends by Hite.  I will be writing a book review on it for this blog so stay tuned. (one of my presentations this coming weekend is on “Solving Family Myths Using the Principles of Logic.”  Thanks to Jean Wilcox Hibben CG for her wise counsel on that one.

I am also starting to book lectures for next winter and spring.  If anyone wants to talk to me about lecturing, let me know…..I would be excited about talking to your group!