Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Brick Walls and X Mind (I)

X-Mind ( is free, full-featured mind mapping software. It allows you to fully explore a topic and move the pieces around until you find what fits. This series is going to use X-Mind to work on a brick wall in your genealogy research.

After you download the program, choose the default template (near the end of the list). The Central Topic is going to be my research question: Who are William Christopher Steen's parents? To enter your research question, double click on Central Topic and type in your question.

 Research questions can be tricky and in some ways they are the most important part of the process. If your query is not carefully stated, you may end up with an unanswerable question. 

Thomas Jones recommends that  you ask the question about a person that you know existed.1 I know WC Steen was a real person, who lived at a demonstrable time and in certain places.  While it may seem that I am asking about Steen's parents, I know they existed, too. I just don't know who they are.

The question is focused. There is one correct answer, and I am trying to find it. I may fail (as I have many times before), but the question can be answered.

Next up: Evaluate the evidence you already have.

1Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof, (Arlington, Va. : National Genealogical Society, 2013) Purchase at or the Kindle edition at

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Going on a Field Trip? Part I

On snowy days like last week, I am grateful to be inside, sipping tea, with a cat or three in my lap while I search the 1810 census page by page. But the weather is warmer, daffodils are sending out pointy green shoots, and I am getting restless. It must be time for a field trip!

I can always walk two blocks to Lone Oak Cemetery, and a notepad, pencil and camera are all I need. Sometimes I just stroll around, looking for serendipitous finds. Other times I am looking for a specific family or trying to get some evidence of relationships between families.

A trip to Lone Oak doesn't take a lot of preparation, and if I forget anything I can just walk back home to get it. But if I'm going much farther from home, I need to plan a little better.

Researching before you leave:

Many members of my family ended up in Clackamas County (Oregon). Oregon City, the county seat, is about an hour and half away. I am trying to track down two things: my father's birth certificate and the marriage license of my parents. As long as I am there, I want to visit the areas where my grandparents and great grandparents lived and worked and that means property records and a good, current map. Even though I lived my childhood in Oregon City, I haven't lived there for a very long time, and I'm sure the town has changed.

Where will I find early birth records? Oddly enough, not in Oregon City. The Oregon State Archives has an inventory of Clackamas County records online, and lists “Museum of the Oregon Territory, Library: Birth Records [Index Abstracts-Mt. Hood Genealogical Forum], 1907-1915 .” With the information in the abstract, I will be able to order the birth certificate from The Center for Health Statistics & Vital Records by mail, saving me a trip to Portland. The library is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00am to 4:00pm. I make a mark on my map, and a note on my itinerary. Admission to the museum and library is free, but I will make a donation, and I note that also.

The marriage record will be available in the clerk's office, according to Archives web page, and once again I will find the index/abstract at the Museum of the Oregon Territory, Library. On my itinerary I note what to look for at the library. I also note from the County Clerk's page that this record can be ordered either in person or by mail, and I list the address, phone number and hours that the clerk's office open.

My early deed indexes and deeds (before 1912) will be found at the State Archives, so I need to start there. Another note on the itinerary and map. (Yes, I know where the Archives are, but the map will help me plan the trip more efficiently). Deeds and indexes after that will be found in the same room as the marriage records. The itinerary is noted.

The County Clerk's office will charge for copies, and parking is not free. I make estimates of the money I need to take, and note that on the itinerary.

The Equipment
1. Research
2. Map
3. Itinerary

I keep all three of these in electronic form, but paper copies of the final itinerary and map are very useful.

For research, you want to know:

What am I looking for?
Where will I find it?
When can I visit?
How much will it cost?

Your itinerary will include:

The address (including room number) of the archive you are visiting.
The hours the archive is open.
The cost to acquire the records.
Any special requirements, such as “only pencils are allowed in archives,” “no briefcases, backpacks or binders” and so on.
Remember to schedule some breaks for lunch and so on.

Next time... On the Road Again

Saturday, January 25, 2014

25 January 2014

Thank you for your patience. As of last night we have photographed, logged and packed 1500 items. Today we are going to try to get all the large glass cases moved. What is left is mostly books, magazines and tools. It looks like we are going to finish by 1 Feb, which is what the city wants.

On the subject of genealogy, I want to talk about some interesting records. I volunteer one day a week at a local historical site. I work in the library, and we received a research request a couple of weeks ago to identify a picture of two young Native American boys. From the legend on the photo, we know they are brothers, we know their last name the year of the photo, and that it was probably taken at an Indian School in a certain state.

Starting with the last name and guessing at the ages of the boys, I started with the census before the photo date. Great luck, I found a family (and only one family) in the state with boys of approximately the right age. Great! Then I discovered that the census was "Schedule No. 1.---Population: Indian Population". I have not had occasion to work with this one before, so I spent some time looking over the questions.

What a shock. After the usual census data of name, relationship, age, marital status and so on, there is a separate set of questions just for this schedule. Other Name, Tribe of "this Indian" and parents' tribe,  % of mixed blood, living in polygamy, and so on. Like a good researcher I put my personal feelings aside and logged the questions and the answers. The questions are important because they illuminate the society these people were living in, at that time and in that place.

Having located the family, I knew what reservation they were living on, and then I found the Indian Census Rolls, covering the period 1885--1940 for those persons living on a reservation and retaining tribal affiliation. These rolls give name, age, gender, marital status, tribe, and agency/reservation name. In some cases they also record death information for a given year.

Just these two record types, census and Indian census rolls, allowed me to trace the entire family of these two little boys. And the story is not a good one. Their family was poor, and although their father received an allotment of land, he lost or sold it. Divorces occurred, children were born in and out of wedlock, and a local newspaper article gives evidence of a double murder and suicide.

And it is the deaths that shock us. The mother of this family lived well into her 70s. She outlived all but one of her 10 children, and every one of her grandchildren. Only two of her children lived long enough to marry and have children, and those children died before reaching maturity. Cause of death, where I found it, includes heart disease, tuberculosis and accident.

I still have a little more research to do, and my report to write up, but what I learned from this bit of research will stay with me a long, long time. I used to joke that we owed it to the tribes to go lose money in their casinos to make up for our past behavior. After seeing the real results of that behavior, I don't think we can ever make it up.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday 18 January 2014

Good morning! I have been tied up with moving 1800 square feet of museum exhibits! We photograph each item (sometimes more than one view), describe the artifact on a log sheet with the box number, and carefully pack the item. When the box is full, a copy of the log sheet goes inside; the original log sheet is 3-hole punched for a binder and then entered into a database.

We have been so fortunate in having just the right number of volunteers and a great mix of talents. Terri is a photographer with a great eye for getting the best view of an object to identify it. Judy is an engineer, and decides where items go in the storage area. Kathy and Linda packed some of our delicate breakables---they have done this sort of thing before. Jocelyn is an expert in old garments,and with the help of Carol and Charlene, spent two days helping us pack our fragile old clothing and linens. Today Kylie, a professional archivist, and some of her students are coming to help pack more items: everything from a cradle scythe to old medical instruments. The mayor, Scott, is coming to assist with some heavy lifting---a wood stove, a pump organ, 4 large file cabinets. Living in a small town can be great!

As of last night there are 850 items in the database and about 900 photographs. Please check us out on Facebook. And, if you live in the area, come on down and lend a hand. We are there every day except Sunday and Tuesday, from 10am to 4pm.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday 11 January 2014


Well our old friend Google is back in the news. They are introducing a new "feature" to allow almost anyone to email almost anyone else. Read a great take on this at Genealogy's Star.


On the subject of resolutions, check out Michael Leclerk's post on the subject in the Mocavo blog. (Elsewhere in the blog, 61% of the readers who answered a poll said they made no New Year's Resolutions.)

Old Data

And no, I do not mean great grand uncle Samuel's will from 1840. Do you still have data trapped in old programs or on floppy disks? Floppy disks of all sizes were never meant for permanent data storage, and any data still on them may not be retrievable. Get the data off! If you know me, give me a call---we maintain a Win95 computer with floppy drives, and I can transfer data to a USB for you. I also have a DOS(!) 3.x machine that still works for really old stuff. I believe the the WIN95 computer still has PAF on it.

 But if your data is locked into a very old program, especially an orphan (no longer in business), the data may be lost. If you don't live close to me, run, run, run to your local computer shop and beg for help. Don't bother with the big chains, they probably can't help. Find a local shop. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year's Resolutions 10 Jan 2014

I  am up to my eyeballs in artifacts, as we pack up the Santiam Historical Society's collection in preparation for our move. Each item needs to photographed, identified on a log that stays with the box, and the log is entered into a database to make it easier to locate specific items later.

This means I haven't had time to write every day. I do recommend The In-Depth Genealogist's article “My Genealogical New Year'sResolutions.” However, I don't recommend the strategy of laying out so many resolutions all at once. Just looking at her list makes me feel like a failure---and that's before I try to do anything. I think it is a much saner strategy to make one resoultion at the beginning of the month (or NOW!). Put it in a note on your desk top, put on sticky notes on your monitor, on your notebooks, file drawers and anywhere else you can think of. Then work on that resolution until it is completed. Then, and only then, pick another task and do the dame thing.

I guarantee that on December 31 you will not have a list of half-done or totally ignored tasks mocking you. Instead, you will have a tidy list of completed projects to look back on. And, don't make sweeping resolutions like “I will have all of my loose papers categorized, entered in my database and filed.” Instead try “I will sort all the loose papers on my Smith line and enter and file them.”

And don't get discouraged. If one task seems hopeless or beyond your capacity, break it down into smaller tasks. Maybe in February I will sort all my loose papers into surname groups. Then in March I will record all the papers for one surname and April I will get them filed. What a sense of accomplishment! And it will make the remaining stacks a little less intimidating.

Do you have any resolutions you would like to share? Add them in the comments section.

Monday, January 6, 2014

6 January 2014 Why Didn't They Marry?

Louisa Miller3 (Sarah (Davie) Miller2, Allen Davie1) married Isaac Small2, son of Isaac Small1 and Hester Ann Campbell about 18891 In 1900, Isaac's widowed father and two older sisters are living in the same dwelling, but enumerated as a separate household.

Isaac1 and Hester Ann crossed the plains in 1854. He first appeared on the tax roll of Marion County in 18552

In 1860, there were about 7022 white folks living in Marion County, 1335 males between 20 and 40 years of age, and 830 females between 15 and 30 years of age.3 In the early days in Oregon men always outnumbered women, and women married at what we consider a very young age. So many of these folks were already married when the census was taken. Almost any women who wished to marry, could.

Isaac1 is enumerated in Marion County in 1860 with his wife, Hester, and six children, identified only by initials. Three of the children are identified as females, but the page is not very legible, and Isaac2 may be one of the ones identified as a female.4 Lavinia (1850—1928), Sarah Ann (1855?) and Ada Lorain(1859—1951) are daughters born before 1860. This entry also shows that Lavinia and Ada both married.5

But in the 1880 Census, Isaac1 is a widower, living with 2 unmarried daughters, Alice and Hattie M. Alice shares a birth date with Ada (1859) and they are probably the same person. In 1880, the daughters are 41 and 38, respectively, both are listed as “single”and both are using the surname “Small.”

Ada did not marry until 1908, at the age of 48. As of this writing I can find no evidence that Hattie married at all. Ada and Hattie both lived long lives; Hattie died in 1943 at the age of 82, and Ada died in 1951 at the age of 926. This would lead me to believe that they were not physically impaired, but I won't know until I check death certificates.

So why didn't they marry? Surely both weren't needed to care for their father, who lived in the same dwelling with his son and daughter-in-law until his death in 1904. In that day and time, women married, women were expected to marry, and in Oregon they usually married at a young age.

What do you think?

11900 US Census, Marion County, Oregon, population schedule, Turner Precinct, Enumeration District (E.D.) 141, Sheet 1A (penned), p. 224 (stamped), dwelling 3, family 5, Isaac Small household; citing NARA microfilm T623, Roll 1348, and FHL film 1241349.
2“Oregon Historical Records Inex,” case 12277B, Provisional and Territorial records, Marion County tax roll, 1855.
3Joseph C. G. Kennedy, Superintendent of the Census,"Population of the United States in 1860; Compiled from the Original Returns of the Eighth Census," (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864"), pp. 400-402.
41860 US Census, Marion County, Oregon, populaton schedule, Silverton Precinct, page 325 (penned), dwelling 3189, family 2729, I. Small household; NARA microfilm M653, roll 1056, FHL film 805056.
5Thompson, D. D., “Isaac H. Small, Sr.,” ( : accessed 5 Jan 2017), entry for Isaac H. Small, Memorial No. 21300903.

6“Oregon Death Index, 1998-2008,” (http:/ : accessed 6 Jan 2014); entries for Ada Mathias and Hettie Small, both Marion County, Oregon.