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How did I get all these little pieces of paper…..

I am sitting in the middle of my living room with little scraps of paper all over the place.  I wish I could blame my puppy for the mess, but it’s all my fault.  I had this brilliant idea recently that I was finally going to organize all my genealogy files and paperwork into Surname Notebooks.  It sounded like a great idea, but I think someone needs to have me committed…I MUST BE CRAZY!!!!


I was feeling a bit overwhelmed when I made this choice and now I’m EXTREMELY overwhelmed.  By the time I pulled every file, stack of papers, bits of scrap paper with information jotted on it, and booted up my computer, I had more that I ever imagined possible.  But I couldn’t stop there.  I needed a sense of accomplishment on this project and also I desperately needed to make sure I had everything possible on my ancestors in my computer as well as their paper files.  I figured I better try to tackle this before it totally gets out of hand. <TOO LATE!!!>

STEP 1 – Make the notebooks

This was the easy part!  I grabbed 5 notebooks and made covers and spines for them.  They look really nice with the family Surname in fancy print and a copy of each surname crest.  Simple enough….I’m a graphic designer.  This part I could do with my eyes closed.


STEP 2 – Separating the pile

Now this part took some time.  I literally sat on the floor with the huge pile of papers in front of me and I sorted them, one at a time into piles by Surname.  Not bad….it only took me about an hour.  By this time I was beginning to see that there were several of my family lines that I could probably handle pretty quickly.  So I matched up each pile with the corresponding notebook.  At least my living room floor looked good again….until I let the puppy back in….then it was covered in a different kind of clutter.


STEP 3 – One Notebook at a Time

It’s probably cheating, but I took the notebook with the least amount of papers and started with that one.  Yeah…it was a cop-out….but what can I say.  I needed to see some more progress at this point.  Again, I sat on the floor and started sorting the papers.  This time by individual.  It actually was going pretty smooth…then I realized that I had some people that, obviously, crossed Surnames.  My Grandma Anna would actually be in 3 notebooks (her Maiden Name book, and also in the Surname books of both of her husbands).  Fortunately I was finding some duplicate papers, so I didn’t need to make a lot of photocopies.

STEP 4 – Making sure the information is in the computer

OK…so this one was definitely NOT the most fun…but it was a VERY necessary part of the organization project.  Once my notebooks were assembled I made sure that every document was carefully read and the information entered into my software program.  This served 2 purposes….I was sure I had the information logged, and it made me re-read each document.  I actually found several pieces of information that I had missed before.  I also made sure I had each item scanned and uploaded as media to my genealogy software.  This took more time than all the remaining organization steps combined….actually, I’m still working on this one.  But I still moved forward with the next step…

STEP 5 – Genealogical Cemetery Reports

This was a new step for me.  Something that I’ve been wanting to do, but just haven’t had the time or the desire to get it done.  Each “report” is individualized with an ancestors name and vital information along with a picture of their headstone, urn, etc.  There is also cemetery information or cremains location information and information on their Find a Grave Memorial.  As part of this process, I created a Find a Grave Memorial for each relative as I was creating these reports.

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I do have one additional step that I’m working on and it will be a continuous process.  Making a list of what I still need….by individual.  This is going to be a very important step for me, as I found out I have duplicates of several documents.  Things I didn’t remember I had because it was in a pile somewhere.  Now I know what I have and what I still need.


Well…Truthfully…I’m not sure.  I’m still working on making sure that all the information is in the computer and scanned…and I’m still photographing graves and entering info into the Cemetery Reports.  But I know this for sure….I’m feeling much more organized and a little more sure of what I have and what I’m missing.  A little organization has gone a long way in helping me feel much better about my project…and my house!  I no longer get frustrated that I’m missing a little piece of paper that I wrote a couple dates on.  They have all been put where they belong…..FOR NOW!  The trick will be to keep the system going and not go back to my addiction for little pieces of paper.  I might need to create my own 12-step program eventually!

The final project…not complete…but, truthfully, they never will be totally complete!
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My Early Records were destroyed in “The Great Flood”….

I spent most of my Friday night reading some of the most vile, vindictive, and malicious comments I have ever read on a Genealogy-themed Facebook page in quite a while.  I still can’t believe that people can be so mean and hateful to people they have never met in their lifetime.  People calling each other names….arguing over who said what and how it had a nasty “tone” to it…and honestly, one of the nicest comments was “Prove it, LIAR”.  All these nasty comments were regarding sourcing your genealogy files and exactly how far back someone can really trace their family history.

I’m not the type of person that wants to brag about how far back I’ve traced my family.  Who cares if I have found royal blood in my family line?  Who cares if I’m related to someone famous?  Who cares if I have skeletons in my family closet?  It doesn’t make me a good genealogist to have more generations than someone I’ve never met.  What makes me a good genealogist is how accurate my tree is, and how I backup my findings.   These petty competitions between people, to the point of verbal bashing, is crazy!

I am very proud to say that I can only go back a few generations on my lines.  In fact, I can only go back to my Grandfather on my maternal line.  And I’m not ashamed of it.  I have clues to who his parents were, but no proof.  I have another line that ends with my great grandfather.  He was given up at birth and handed over to the municipality in Southern Italy.  I have no information on his parents, and probably will never be able to find out anything about them as they were not listed on his birth certificate.  And that’s OK with me.  I’m proud of my family lines and nobody can change that.

So what’s the fascination with trying to brag a bit about what you have and what you tell others?   I find nothing wrong it…as long as you don’t feel like you have to rip someone else apart to make yourself feel good.  When you start the verbal bashing it doesn’t make your tree better than anyone else’s…to me it make you a smaller person.  You become nothing but a genealogy bully.  And nobody likes a bully.

One of these genealogy tirades was, honestly, like watching a tennis match.  Back and forth the multiple participants volleyed the comments…I have a line of public officials…my line has a 3 star general…well, my line includes British Royalty…but the best one stated that if “The Great Flood” wouldn’t have happened, she would be able to prove her line back to Adam.  Even though you can get the rest of her line from your nearest Bible.  WHAT?!?!?!  Really?!!?!?!?!  Come on people!!!

I love to look at family trees…anyone’s family tree…not just mine.  Genealogy is more than a hobby to me.  But…COME ON!  This argument, as comical as it was, now had my full attention!  We’re now blaming “The Great Flood” for destroyed records?  I had to go back and re-read the thread just to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  What started as a discussion about citing sources and making sure you have proper verification, has now turned into a shouting match online about Noah’s Ark!  Some people never cease to amaze me!

Do yourself and everyone that views your tree a favor…make sure you have backup to the claims in your lines.  Don’t let it get out of hand by “tracing your ancestors” back to Noah and the Ark and then tossing a Bible at the nay-sayers as proof of the rest of your line, because “The Great Flood” destroyed the rest of your documents.   Use your Family Bible to gather information, not as a source of Biblical Writing that proves you’re related to Adam and Eve.

Document your sources….for yourself…for your family…and for future generations!  I’m heading back over to Facebook now…I just saw a thread about cleaning headstones and the flames are flying yet again.  I think I’m going to pop some popcorn…it just might be a double feature!

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Deep in my heart…

Most of my blog posts so far have had humor and sarcasm sprinkled in them….some of them are SMOTHERED in it.  Its time for a change… so, this blog post won’t be like my others….I promise.

I have been thinking a lot, lately, about family.  Not necessarily MY family….just “family”.  Everyone has one…even those that are estranged from their family or those that were adopted or those that seem to have “lost everyone”.  Somewhere out there, there is a family for everyone.  “Family” are those people that make you feel whole…people that you would give or do anything to make them happy, healthy, and feeling loved.  To a Genealogist, “family” normally falls into a pedigree chart or GEDCOM file….but that doesn’t mean they are in “your” pedigree chart.  A true genealogist will help anyone search for their family…we just sometimes put more effort into searching for those people we love and care about the most.

I started reflecting on the mountains of papers and computer documents that I have in my “library” at home and its staggering.   Name upon name, image upon image…some in duplicate and even triplicate.  I seem to know each person intimately.  Their dates of birth, marriage, and death pop into my head as I thumb thru my files.  These people have occupied more than just my files and my computer.  They occupy my heart as well.  And I take it personally when I can’t find a piece of them to make their files complete.  Sometimes, I even get  up in the middle of the night and can’t get them out of my mind…so I turn on my laptop and try just one more thing to find them.  They all have become so important to me.

Lately, I have been helping several friends with searching for missing family members.  Not trying to find their 15th great grandmother, or break thru a typical brick wall, but, rather looking for family members who have recently passed away…most within the last 20 or so years.  These people are not the easiest people to find.  In a lot of cases their records have not been microfilmed and put online, or they are still being protected by the county offices to cut down on Identity Theft.  These are the most frustrating for me.  I will spend a hundred hours using Google,,, Mocavo, etc., etc., etc., to try and find one little glimmer of finding the “missing person”.  It’s not a matter of proving I can do it, or even for the acknowledgment that I found them, but it’s that I don’t want to let anyone down…especially those that mean so much to me.  When I’m asked to help, I give it 250% of my effort.

Last night was one of those searches.  At one point my computer cried “UNCLE” and froze for 10 minutes…I had 87 search tabs open in 4 browser windows…I didn’t even realize I had that many open.  I’ve searched funeral home websites, death indexes,,, bounced into Mocavo, surfed thru GenealogyBank and NewsLibrary for newspaper articles, and I’ve tried every variation of the child’s name, mom’s name, even looked for a common factor among other family members deaths that I could find.  I’ve tried to find a cemetery where multiple family members were buried…a common funeral home the family used…but I’m not sure this one is going to be easily solved.  So why am I getting myself upset over this one?  Why is this search so different for me? Because the friend that requested my help is special.  He holds a very special place in my heart and I’m so afraid of letting him down.  What’s important to him, is important to me.  This is truly the meaning of family.

So the next time you are flipping thru your family files or are stuck on that one piece of the puzzle that you can’t find, think about the person you are searching and the person you are doing the searching for.  These people are a part of your family even if they are not biologically related to you….and they can be just as important deep in your heart.