November Genealogy To Do

Well, although I got my “new family” chart finalized (and printed beautifully), I haven’t made a decision about a way to share all the information with the couple.  In the past, I have made a sharable CD from RootsMagic but it turns out that sometimes that isn’t very viewable by the younger folks.  I’m not sure what the issue is but I hate to present something to someone that frustrates them!  So I’m considering a website, maybe through RootsMagic, or maybe with a domain name all their own.  Or maybe, in the end, I’ll just make another sharable CD and hope they can access it.

Related to this, I would like to make a small (modest) new family tree for the baby who was just born, with pictures attached to parents and grandparents.  This would be an extension of the tree I made for her parents when they got married a couple of years ago.  I’m envisioning something that could be hung on a wall in the baby’s room and looked at and talked about as she grows.   Maybe possible for her first Christmas?

My goals for November are relatively modest since the holidays are coming, and I’m hosting a family Thanksgiving this year.  First, I will continue to (go back to working on) organizing my digital files, naming them consistently in the way I have decided works best for me.  This is one of the tasks I do by 25 minute chunks of time, since that is a reasonable time limit for my frustration level.  Of course, I sometimes cannot resist going off on the tangent of looking to see if there is an update to my file, a digital image that wasn’t available before.  I must admit that many of the files I am just now organizing are a number of years old (and not-yet connected to an individual or event in my database), so it makes some sense to me to see if there is more than an index available for example.  And often enough, there is.  Familysearch.org, for example, continues to digitize birth marriage and death registers which provide more information than the index does.  On the other hand, this takes extra time and draws me down various rabbit holes.

The other tasks I need to remember to do are the computer clean-up ones:  backing up my blog posts and my genealogy databases, and scanning my harddrive for files that could be deleted and cleaning up the registry file.  I have forgotten a couple of months over the summer and need to get back in the habit of doing these tasks on a monthly basis.

Posted in Bits and Pieces Tagged with:

A Pioneer Story: Pioneer Days, Part 2, Starting in Iowa

When I last left off with Laura’s tale, she was having a more extended visit with her Townsend relatives and her husband, J.W., was off to Iowa to find a place for them.  Once her husband had found land that he wanted to settle on, he returned to Illinois and he and Laura set out on their trip further West.

As she described it: J.W. and a former neighbor from Columbus, Ohio, had traveled widely in Iowa looking for the ideal spot and had ended up “with the next best thing”, locating places to homestead “on land where the soil was good, timber plentiful and a beautiful, clear stream of water meandered its way thru the entire breadth of the purchase.”  This was very new country, sparsely settled by families scattered across the prairie, and the county seat had not yet been placed.  The nearest town of any size was Cedar Falls, about 40 miles from their new homestead in Franklin County.  The railroad was only extended as far as Dubuque, Iowa, which was about one hundred-twenty-five miles east of their land.

So Laura and J.W. rode the train to Dubuque and then began what Laura called “our real pioneering”.  From Dubuque they took a stage coach pulled by two teams and very crowded, over the very primitive roads that existed at that time.  Laura described it as “so closely packed that a desire of anyone to move trunk or limb must be followed by a movement of each passenger in the same direction.”  It was a bright November day.

The first night was spent in Waterloo Iowa, a little town in its infancy without a hotel for travelers.  Thus the coach passengers were shown to a small room filled with baggage, and left for the night.  As Laura described it, after making a brief meal from food brought with them (“for such emergencies”), J.W. surveyed the possibilities and decided on a pile of baggage softer than the rest and lifted Laura up, taking a position on a box at her feet for the night.

The next day their trip was lengthened by running into what Laura called a “slough in the road”, which by its description was a large swampy area that the horses couldn’t pull the coach through with all the passengers and baggage.  The group was able,  finally, by using fence rails as levers and the horses pulling, to get the coach onto dry road again.  They finally made their nightfall into Cedar Falls late but happy to arrive.  Cedar Falls was described as larger and having more amenities in terms of accommodations and food than the night before.

Cedar Falls was the end of the stage coach line and from there the passengers parted ways to make their way onward individually.  J.W. and Laura had forty more miles to travel to reach their new environs and traveled on alone.  They spent their time talking about plans for their new home.  They concluded, because of the lateness of the season, that they would start with a temporary two-room log house.

That night and the next were spent in a “pioneer’s cabin” turned hotel for land-seekers.  They were about 3 miles from their new land.  The cabin was described in some detail by Laura, as a two room structure with kitchen/dining in one room and sleeping/sitting in the other.  J.W. and Laura made themselves a “room” by stringing her double shawl up surrounding the bed built into the corner of the room that was to be theirs for these nights.

In four short paragraphs Laura described the building of their own 2-room cabin that late fall with logs cut on their own property.  A snow storm in early December slowed the outdoor progress and required a quick decision about how to roof the building for the winter.  Poles and earth were a reasonable solution for the winter, since they had reason to think that it wouldn’t rain again until April or so.  So, on December 15th Laura reported moving themselves into their abode, unpacking boxes and setting up beds, etc.  For the winter they huddled by the stove when the weather was bitterest and when it moderated a little J.W. was able to make the walnut shingles for a more permanent roof.  Come April the new roof was accomplished, despite starting out with a rain storm that soaked parts of the house and their belongings as they had moved belongings around to take the poles-and-earth root down and install a real shingled roof.

Posted in Miscellaneous Tagged with: ,

October Genealogy To-Do List

1.  I will make a sharable family tree for my nephew and his wife, to finish the new family tree project.  I finally (!!) got the chart I wanted made – a bowtie chart with the couple at the middle and their parents, grandparents, etc. moving out from them on the right and the left.  This was possible using RootsMagic, my database, but not simple.  I still think someone, somewhere, should make a chart like this possible without the manipulations I had to go through in RootsMagic.

2.  I will separate and connect each file or piece of information that I found on our Washington DC trip to the person or people in my datebase that it is connected to and make sure it is filed in the correct computer folder.  This is complicated by the fact that I have digital images of scans, digital images taken with my cell phone (which are in Dropbox), and paper items copied at the DAR Library.  I need to consolidate all these and name the files before I can add them to my database or move to the appropriate computer folder.

I did a reasonable job of preparing ahead for this trip, and had two checklists that I took with me to keep me on track (one for NARA and one for the DAR Library).  I mostly focused on military pensions at NARA, and both used the fold3 database available there and requested paper files of things not-yet-scanned.  For three of the paper files I utilized the Innovation Hub option – you have the file delivered to that area and scan it yourself.  This was fun, although tiring, work and I like feeling like I contributed several digitized files to the genealogy cause.  The Innovation Hub is a crowdsourcing effort to get files never microfilmed digitized so that researchers can use the images and the increasingly fragile paper can be safeguarded.

Posted in Miscellaneous Tagged with: , ,

The Stephen Townsend Family

I’m taking a brief side trip today, based on the report of Laura Denman Booth (as last posted) about stopping to visit, stay for awhile, with her relatives in Illinois outside Chicago.  This was the Stephen and Ann Denman Townsend family.

When I read that portion of Laura’s memoir and figured out who the family had to be, I went looking on the Bureau of Land Management website to see if I could find them buying land in Illinois and, voila!, there they were.  By looking for original patents, which are the first sale by the federal government to an individual, I found Stephen Townsend purchasing 4 pieces of land in township 41N in Dekalb County, Illinois, between September 1845 and December 1850.  He ended up with 160 acres, buying 40 acres at a time.  Townships were squares, approximately 6 miles on a side, divided into 36 sections one mile on a side.  This article on rootsweb.com describes the Illinois system.  When Stephen had purchased his 4 parcels he had the equivalent of a quarter section, spanning 2 different sections.  This map shows the location of the first quarter of a quarter he purchased:  Townsend, Stephen - 1845 purchase IL

A biographical sketch of the Townsends contained in a book titled Past and Present of Dekalb County, found on ancestry.com, recorded that most of the Townsends migrated to Dekalb County in 1840.  Since both Stephen and his father Joshua Townsend were enumerated in Neversink, Sullivan, New York for the 1840 federal population census, they must have left after June 1, 1840.  Stephen’s brother Charles was said to have gone first, in 1837.  (Charles is found in the 1840 census in Illinois with a wife and young daughter.)  In 1840 Stephen and his wife Ann and their 5 children, along with father Joshua and mother Phebe, headed West.  They traveled in wagons pulled by teams and the trip is said to have taken several weeks, given slow speeds and often-poor roads.  Thus, Laura’s description of them as being pioneers and as having experienced the difficulties of taming new land rings true.

What isn’t clear yet is what drew them to move when they did and to where they did.  Certainly the federal government was willing to sell some of its land.  In 1830 Congress had passed a Pre-emption Act which granted settlers the right to purchase at $1.25 per acre 160 acres of public land which they have cultivated for at least 12 months (protecting squatters to some extent but also setting a price and amount of land).  This, with the opening of the Erie Canal, opened the Illinois priarie lands to easier access.  A map of the land cover of Dekalb County in the early days seems to show that the Townsends found rich bottom-land to buy, which supported their agricultural efforts.

This is a family I wish I knew more about.  It seems that they settled into Dekalb County, Illinois and contributed to their communities.  If there are any Townsend/Denman relatives who know additional details, I would love to hear from you!

Posted in Miscellaneous Tagged with: , ,

September Genealogy To-Do

As I begin this post it continues to be hot and humid and very, very dry in the North East of the US.  I’ve had a vacation and come back with a summer cold.  I did little or nothing of what I thought I would do on my family history projects in August.  That all said:

I’m starting September with 2 goals, both of which are time-limited by external factors.

1.  I will figure out what I might be able to find in Washington DC at the NARA and the DAR Research Library.  I will also find out the details of what I can expect at the DAR Library, hours, availability of records, scanning files, costs, etc.  Judy and I have already scheduled our flights to DC, so I have to do this before I go.  Otherwise I take the chance of wasting some valuable research time in the Archives and the Research Library.  An expensive waste!

2.  My second goal, noted before during this summer, is to produce the graphic of a new family tree that is being made formal or official in October in the family with a wedding.  Since the wedding is the beginning of October and I want to print this tree for the couple before that, I *have* to finish it.

Between these two things and the rest of life that goes on, I will be happy to actually accomplish the 2.  Time speeds up and I slow down with age.

Posted in Miscellaneous