snow Jan 2015Lots of snow here in Massachusetts, keeping me indoors even more than the cold does, and therefore I am more likely to be doing something genealogical.  I have been working on one of my small projects and started another which is bigger than I had originally thought (isn’t it always the way?).

I have been filling in a spreadsheet of my direct Salt ancestors with their vital information (dates for birth, death, etc.) and marking those which I have good sources for.  I continue to be surprised at the close-to-me ancestors (like my maternal grandfather for example) for whom I have no good source for birth.  Since he was born in 1896 in Ohio, I would expect that there should be a birth registry for the county but so far I have had no luck finding it.  Come on, familysearch.org!!  As part of the spreadsheet I am also tracking what records have been entered in Clooz which is where I want to track documents and sourcesalt vitals sheets.  Green in a cell shows I have documentation (or it is a “yes”) and red shows I still have work to do.  I already see too many red cells, but it makes it easier to see what work I have to do.  As soon as I finish filling in the spreadsheet I will go back and start entering the rest in Clooz and work on creating a list or spreadsheet of what I need to look for and where.

I also have started on a new family tree for a wedding in the spring.  One of our nephews is marrying and I want to create a family tree for the newly created family as a wedding present.  I did something like this last summer for another nephew and had a lot of fun.  Likewise, this time around is being fun and I am both learning more about the two families but also about an unsuspected connection between the bride and one of my mother’s family lines.  In addition, one of the delightful benefits to doing this sort of project is meeting and interacting with the bride’s mother (so far in cyberspace) and discovering that she too is the family historian.  Small world sometimes.  I will be working more on this project in February and looking forward to many more exciting discoveries.

My last goals for February include finalizing the transcript I have drafted of the will of William Denman made in 1738 originally, which I found at The Keep in September.  I will also start work, and hopefully finish, transcribing the other will I found.  This one is for Michael Marten and connects him to a William Denman and a Samuel Denman both of whom are described as sons in law.  If I can find the direct link, this William would be the father of my migrant ancestor William Denman.  So I’m excited to get this will transcribed.

The day after our adventures in Ditchling the cousins graciously took us to The Keep so I could explore a little.  This was particularly kind since I was the one out of the four of us who really wanted to spend a little time there, getting to see the collections and trying to find family records.  I got a morning of research with some help from a number of people, including my cousin; the others were quite good about doing a little wandering and then sitting and talking over a cup of tea.

The Keep is a new repository and building, opened in the Fall of 2013, which is a partnership of the East Sussex Records Office, the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections and the University of Sussex Special Collections and puts all of these records in one place.  I thought I had taken a picture of it as we arrived but apparently I didn’t.  So here is a picture, courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons.  The Keep

This building also houses the library of the Sussex Family History Group, which is staffed by volunteers of the Group.  It was in their library that we started and I was lucky enough to find Judy and Colin Excell on duty that day.  They were both very helpful in finding me places to start my searches in, and I came away from them with copies of several pages from a book about the Ditchling church group and several references for transcribed wills to send for; I also took an application to join the Group (which I did as soon as I returned home).   One of the record sets available to members (I’m not sure about non-members) is a collection of transcribed wills and probate records.  With the information from Judy I was able to request and have emailed to me two wills from the early 1700s.

I spent the rest of my time getting oriented to the microfilm collection and looking for several specific wills.  I was thrilled to find two of the ones I was looking for (William Denman of Cowfold in Sussex, 1738, and Michael Marten of Fragborrough in the parish of Ditchling in Sussex, 1750), and was able to get digital images of the pages which I downloaded to my thumbdrive (I came prepared!).  I think I paid The Keep 10p per image for this service.  On a quick skim on the microfilm reader I could see that William Denman mentioned sevWilliam my eldest soneral children, including his eldest son William, who we think is the father of my emigrant ancestor William Denman.  I also found that Michael Marten mentioned two of his daughters (perhaps the only two children still living when he wrote the will), both of whom were married to Denman men.  One of them, Ann Marten, was married to a William Denman ason in law Williamnd we think this is the same son William from the William Denman will.  This is the place in the search where a knowledge of very local geography and social history is so important and where my new-found cousin is particularly helpful.  Now that I’m home again and the winter holidays are behind us, I am starting work on transcribing both of these documents.

Unfortunately, the William Denman who married Ann Marten does not seem to have left a will.  It would have been so convenient if he had and had mentioned his son William who went to America!  If memory serves, my fourth great grandmother’s (Ann Boorman’s) father did leave a will naming her and that she had gone to America.

All in all, I left The Keep well satisfied and excited to follow up my finds.  As is often the case, I was left with questions and thoughts about how to follow up.  I think there are new English record groups in my future.  I wish I lived a shorter plane flight from this new repository.  I would happily spend at least a week visiting it daily to research.

new year 2008-5Here’s wishing all of us a healthy, happy, and peaceful New Year.

I just went back and looked and my January 2014 To-Do List and realize how different things looked a year ago.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but nevertheless.  I had forgotten how focused I was a year ago on the Earhart-Hockman question.  I’m happy to report that follow up led me to a tentative conclusion about my ancestor, Elizabeth M. Hockman or Earhart.  I wrote about it here, in April 2014.  I haven’t pursued this question much further, as it looks to me like the possible resources I need are not online.  Another trip to southwest Ohio in my future?  I should probably also look at the Genealogical Proof Standard and Thomas Jones’ book.  Several references to how we know the person we found is actually our relative when that person lived and died without our knowing him or her have intrigued me since this is exactly the problem.

When I look at the question of organization and what I thought I would do this year, I also see that I didn’t follow the game plan precisely.  I had thought that I would use Evernote tags to guide me (To_Analyze for example) and I didn’t.  What I did do was start through my Denman file and add each piece of information I had already collected to the individual in RootsMagic and change the filename and put the file in the appropriate subdirectory.  I didn’t make it through this one family name before I distracted myself and moved to looking at each of my direct ancestors to see what life events (birth, marriage, and death at least) I had good documentation for.  I did the same work of making sure it was added to the person in RootsMagic including an image of the file if I had one and then renaming and putting it in the subdirectory it belongs in.  I got through all of my great-great-grandparents and made a list in Evernote of what was missing.  Not surprisingly many of the missing pieces were documentation for births; this included some that should have been recorded in a county or state registry and that I cannot find – yet.  My intention is to move this list to a spreadsheet as well so I can sort it, etc. but that hasn’t yet happened.

My only-formulated-so-far 2015 goal is to work on (and I hope to solve) the mystery of how I am related to the two Denman cousins I have connected with.  I spent a lot of time on the Denman line this last year and learned a lot, but we haven’t yet figured out or found evidence for how Michael Denman (c 1761-1800) and William Denman (1763-1858) are related although we are pretty certain that they are. I am working on getting my 4 siblings all to test their autosomal DNA and then will start on the Denman first cousins.  There are a couple of men available in that group and I’m hoping I can persuade one of them to also do a yDNA test.  I don’t know of any Denman men on my line who have tested, although there are a couple of Denman One Name Studies and at least one DNA study going on that would be relevant to my questions.   So, if by any chance you are a Denman man who descends from John and Marinda Blackman Denman (my line), or from any of William and Ann Boorman Denman’s sons, I hope you will consider testing your yDNA as part of the study.

IMGP4905 with OMH marked

Map of Ditchling

So we set off to spend an afternoon in Ditchling with our new-found cousins and to meet the widow of the archivist for the Old Meeting House and another avid Denman researcher (who is related to the Sussex Denmans but much further back in generations).  Old Meeting House signpost

To briefly recap the two lines of most interest to me (and my cousin): I descend from William Denman and Ann Boorman who married in 1790, lived in Hythe in Kent and migrated to America in 1795 with 3 young children.  My cousin descends from Michael Denman and Elizabeth Hubbard who married in 1784 and raised their family in the area of Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.  I have also connected with another cousin who descends on this line from a different son than my English cousin.  It is discovering the parents for both William and Michael Denman that we are interested in.

A relative , John Bluet Denman, in the 1970s or early 1980s created a family tree for my line (for my uncle, Richard Denman) showing William as the son of William Denman and Ann Marten and showing Michael as also the son of these two.  At least one other Denman researcher has also placed my William as son of William Denman and Ann Marten.  With no church register currently available, and no will for the father William, to date there is no  evidence supporting this part of the tree.  Apparently there was a church register of births and deaths originally, which was seen and used by various researchers (including perhaps John B. Denman and certainly Leonard Maguire, archivist for the Old Meeting House) but which has gone missing since the mid-1980s or so.  This register covered approximately the years 1737 – 1810 (during which my ancestor William was born and baptized as an adult into the church and Michael also would have been).  As a congregation of a non-confoming and often persecuted church in England the records were never part of the officially recognized public records like the parish records or Bishop’s Transcripts and I’m told that records were often kept at a member’s home rather than the church (even after there was a church building).

IMGP4886One of the pictures that didn’t get taken was of the tea party we had on the small lawn in front of the the cottage (which is on the left side of this picture, with the chapel on the right) between the house and the old gravestones .  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with a clear blue sky and the  border of flowers against the cottage front wall was in full display, as shown in the picture. IMG_1298 We sat around a low table on which there was a tea pot, cups on saucers, and a plate piled high with “rock cakes” made by our hostess that day.  After we had all been served with a first round of tea and cakes, she brought out a plate of freshly-baked lemon cake.  Yum!  There were books piled in the corners to look through when I could pull myself away from the conversation, which meandered from Denman family history to Mr. Maguire’s archival interests to current-day church interests.

There were two particularly interesting experiences that afternoon.  One was seeing the chapel itself and the memorial tablets around the room.IMG_1306The other was the adventure of climbing down an old wooden ladder into the cellar of the old cottage and seeing the bare stones and original underpinnings of the structure.  One of the stones could be seen to have a number carved into it but I could not tell if it was part of a date or something else.  Unfortunately, the crypt under the chapel which contains my putative relatives is no longer accessible.  Recent work on the floor covered over the entry – no clue why they would think no one would want to see old graves/memorials!  So the archival notes by Mr. Maguire and the memorial tablets in the chapel itself are all that is left.

Well November has flown by with not nearly enough hours in each day or enough days in a week to accomplish everything.  We had snow on the ground twice, although the first time, early in the month, hardly counted since it didn’t even completely cover things.  The second time was over Thanksgiving but did not cancel any of the family’s traveling.  So, as I start to pull my thoughts together for my genealogy projects for December, there is snow on the ground and the temperature is low.  A good time to be inside.

Not a lot of genealogy work got done in November but I did manage to go through each of my direct ancestors in my RootsMagic database back through my great great grandparents and enter all the vital information I have on each.  This allowed me to create a list (in Evernote but I need to make it a spreadsheet) of what is missing for each person.  By doing this I cleaned up a small amount of the “obtained but not used” pieces of information sitting in the various family name files.  I did also go back and check quickly to see if any of the indexed but not digitized things had now been digitized.  The big online sources do so much and add so many records that it is always worth checking again.

I once heard Josh Taylor say that he had taken a year off from adding to his own research and devoted that time to organizing his information and files.  He has an impressive system set up.  At the time I couldn’t quite imagine taking that much time to do nothing but clean-up, but I seem to have fallen into doing a lot of it.  Which certainly needs doing.  What happens, regardless of how I have set up my work process, is that I find myself checking for an additional piece of evidence that I am reminded of by my organizing.  So while I am spending much of my genealogy time on organizing, I am also adding to my information and clarifying relationships.

I have 2 more posts I want to write about my part of the England trip experience (that is, the genealogical rather than the sightseeing).  One of these will get done for December.

The last project I hope to get started on is to begin reading one of the myriad Evernote how-to books that are available for Kindles, periodically for free (my favorite price!).  I use Evernote a lot but know that I am not as efficient about it as I could be, and I’m interested in how to better use it to track my research.

These plus the holidays that rapidly approach will keep me plenty busy but in pleasant ways.  My fingers are crossed for not too much more snow here in December so we all can get done what needs doing.  Happy holidays to all!

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