Genealogy Do-Over: To Do or Not To Do?

I have been thinking lately about joining the MacEntee Genealogy Do-Over group for real (not just reading the Facebook page!).  I am, as they say, in the contemplative phase.  Friends could tell you that I am frequently in the contemplative stage about a lot of projects.  This is true.  I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about doing or how to do before I am finally ready to commit myself to act.  I’m sure this is diagnostic of something or other.

Be that as it may, I have been toying with the idea of the Do-Over since I am trying harder to source evidence for the things I know about my family lines.  More than a year ago I started a fresh new RootsMagic tree for my family intending to add people as I had evidence to back up the facts.  A good idea I haven’t followed through on.

Moreover, at this point I am aware of how much information I have collected and not done anything with.  I have digital images of all sorts of registers and certificates (as well as index entries and actual pieces of paper) that do actually provide some evidence about events in people’s live.  The digital files live in surname folders on my computer (at least I’ve gotten that far!) with inconsistent filenames and as I work on a given folder I discover that I “found” the same evidence more than once (sometimes years apart) since I didn’t see/know that I already had it.  I also have binders of paper information of the same sort from earlier times which is in the same sad state of never having been connected to the people referred to.  Bah!

Worse yet, as I have worked on a folder to assign consistent (and currently approved-by-Pat) filenames, I don’t necessarily add the information to my tree, so if I am looking at it I don’t know that I have evidence for a fact.  Double Bah!  I do know better than this, I just don’t do what I know is a better way.

So my contemplation of the Genealogy Do-Over is thinking about whether it will help me conquer this nasty habit or set of habits and establish a more organized way of researching.  I would like to be able to see that I am actually making some progress and learning new things about my family lines because I could see that I needed to research a particular question.  My perfectionistic self would also like to be able to see that computer files and paper files are organized and easy for anyone to look at and understand.



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October Genealogy To-Do

Judy and I had a fun and successful trip to FHL front - 2015 09 15 - 001Salt Lake City and I came back enthusiastic about my finds and determined to continue to pursue the ones I haven’t yet found.  Tops on that list is my grandfather’s birth registration which should exist but is being elusive.  I am also happy to say that I have managed since returning home to add full filenames to each file, to add metadata giving the microfilm number etc. for each image, and –ta da!!- to both file the image in the correct family folder on my computer and connect it to the person in my Roots Magic database.  I am habitually slow about doing this final processing of my research trip finds and I was determined this time to do better.  A pat on the back for Pat!

The one remaining piece of work is to follow a procedure I picked up from the Facebook group Evernote Genealogists.  Starting with the microfilms on which I did not find the record I was looking for, I am creating a new note in Evernote with the film number and the person I was searching for along with a tag Not Found.  This may turn out to be a research log system I can actually use and keep up.  I’ll keep you posted.

So for October, my first goal is to finish that project, which will likely include my usual need to re-work my Evernote notebooks and tags, and excursions into looking for related people or other films of the same information.

The other project I hope to start is a 25 x 25.challenge.  I got the idea from Janine Adams over at her blog, Organize Your Family History in a post about how she is using a challenge.  The idea, as I understand it, is to challenge yourself to do x minutes of genealogy research for x days – meant to help with the problem of finding time for genealogy research.  In my case the problem is mostly in the other direction (spending too much time) but in not being focused enough – chasing those Bright Shiny Objects instead of the original goal.  So I am thinking that committing to one or two specific tasks for 25 minutes a day for 25 days in a row might be a solution.  My specific projects are to finish transcribing the William Denman will I got a year ago, and to transcribe the Michael Marten will.  The Denman will is mostly done so more an editing project, going back and trying to read handwritten words I wasn’t sure of or couldn’t make out at all the first time.  As I remember, the Marten will is luckily in much easier to read handwriting, so there is a chance I can actually get it done too.

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Bernard and Ruth Field Freund

I recently found Bernard Freund on the 1940 census and discovered a new fact.  He was an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board at about the same time as my father-in-law.

When I went back and read the letter from his wife Ruth Field Freund to my sister-in-law I was informed that Ruth and my mother-in-law (the mystery woman, Sarah Riddner) had become good friends along with being cousins and visited each other as young women.  From this I began to wonder if my in-laws, young marrieds themselves, introduced Bernard to Sarah’s cousin Ruth.  [Now that I think of it, I wonder if my sister-in-law was named after Ruth Field.]

This introduction would have made some sense, but as I discovered, it wasn’t how it happened.  Through doing an online search for Bernard Freund, I discovered that there is a collection of oral histories at the Ball State University library Special Collections that covers the history of Muncie, Indiana.  Muncie is where the Freunds lived and raised their family.  This oral history collection includes the MIddletown Jewish Oral History Projects, Pts 1 and 2 and these collections have two oral interviews by Bernard Freund about his family and one by his mother (Pearl Cohen) as well.  The transcriptions are very interesting and provide a picture of what it was like to be Jewish in Muncie in the 1940s-late 1970s.  They also provide, with some focused reading, names and activities of other relatives of the Freunds and Cohens.

In talking about the social life in Muncie and the social scene for the Jewish community, Bernard included how he happened to meet the woman he later married, Ruth Field of Fort Wayne.  He said there was an organization called the Indiana Union of Jewish Youth, which had (he said) come into being to help young Jewish people from various cities meet each other.  Most of the Jewish communities in Indiana were not very large and the young people found it difficult to meet others when they were interested in dating or getting married.

Bernard was not specific about when he met Ruth Field, but he was traveling for the NLRB until after the 1940 federal census was taken,  They may well have met before that, since he talked about visiting both Muncie and Chicago.  Ruth visited with her cousin Sarah (my mother-in-law) during the late 1930s in Chicago and she was a student at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, graduating (I think) in about 1938/1939.  Sarah Riddner had studied in Chicago in 1937 and 1938 although we don’t know much about her experiences there.  Ruth Field Freund’s letter to my sister-in-law said that she stayed at Sarah’s apartment several different weekends and that they shared a common woman friend in the young woman who later married Dr. J. Masserman, a local and noted psychiatrist.

By the 1940 federal census, Ruth Field was lodging in Clawson village in Michigan (described as part of the greater Detroit area) and teaching school in one of the public schools. I don’t know what she taught, or for how long.  However, she and Bernard were married in September 1941 so my guess is that she only taught for a year or two.

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September Genealogy To-Do

The big accomplishment in September will be my trip to Salt Lake City and the Family History Library (which, yes, I am really looking forward to!).  I will spend the time in September before the trip adding to and refining my plans in terms of what I want to accomplish.  I start out the month with a spreadsheet (very incomplete) that lists my direct relatives, what vital record is missing, and a film number that I think will contain the image of the certificate or register I want to look at and copy.

Number one on my priority list is to get as many pieces of direct evidence for the missing births, marriages, and deaths as I can.  This will include my husband’s family lines as well.  I know there are some images available at the Library that are not indexed or even browseable online yet (and I would have requested them using the old photocopy request form in the past, but the Library doesn’t do that anymore).

Along with film numbers I need to refresh my knowledge of when various jurisdictions started requiring registration for vital life events.  Some of my missing information is likely to take more creativity to find the evidence.

My second item is to gather similar information for my English Denman line and for the Titus Salt line I am exploring.

My third item is to look at other materials (e.g., compiled genealogies, local histories, etc.) to see what I can add to my knowledge base.

Oh dear, as I look at my spreadsheet today, I realize how much more work I need to do before the trip.  So I am going to stop writing about it (or talking about it) and go do it.  Yes, I will.

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Looking for the Riddner Cousins in Connecticut

This is a work in progress as I work to track the Riddner family that my mother-in-law was part of.  [I have written a couple of past posts about Sarah and her family, here and here.]

Sylvia, Sarah, and Tillie, 1922

Sylvia, Sarah, and Tillie, 1922

In 1974 my sister-in-law started researching her mother’s (Sarah Riddner) early life.  She wrote a lot of letters to all the related people she knew about and asked them what they knew about her mother as a young girl or young woman..

In November 1974 one of the Field cousins answered her letter and provided 2 and a half typewritten pages of what she knew about my mother-in-law and the Riddner family.  This cousin was one of the children of Clara Riddner Field, who was the younger sister of Ben Riddner (Sarah’s father).  Ben Riddner and his second family lived in Ft. Wayne Indiana as did the Field family.  Sarah had been born and raised in Milwaukee so the Fields only saw her occasionally, however this cousin had been closer to her in adolescence and spent time with her in Chicago.

Sometime between 2002 and 2011 I had conversations with my sister-in-law about the family history, and she finally found the letters she had gotten and let me read and copy them.  The tidbit I first followed was the Field cousin saying that her mother had cousins in West Hartford, Connecticut names Leah Portner and Helen Seltzer.  So I went looking for census records and – bingo! – found Helen (Ellen) and her husband Isidore Seltzer living in West Hartford in 1920 with Leah and Abraham Portner’s family, and listed as cousins.   I also found the Seltzer family in the 1930 census in Hartford.  This was 2007 and that was about as far as censuses would take me.  In 2011 I did some more internet searching, having connected a family picture tentatively with the Portners, and I continued some searching on the Seltzers as well.  The Connecticut Death Index showed me that Helen Seltzer’s maiden name was Rudner. .At that point I dropped the ball and did not pursue the likelihood that Rudner and Ridner were the same name.  I didn’t make the connection.  In 2013 when the 1940 census became available, I found both the Portners and the Seltzers living in Hartford or West Hartford but again didn’t pursue them further.

Then this summer I started again trying to put the pieces together and discovered some new sources.  Of course there are many more online databases to search and I have found some useful evidence.  The research question I am focusing on now is: how is Helen Ridner related to Benjamin and Clara Riddner?  I have gotten Isidore Seltzer’s naturalization papers and his World War II military service record from the State of Connecticut which both give Helen’s name and a date of birth, with the place of her birth given as “Russia” with no town given.  So far none of the evidence gives a clue about where in Russia she came from or was born.

I have a list of places I need to look for information (and more will likely occur to me as I look).  I need to comb the Steve Morse and Ellis Island sites for Helen’s entry to the U.S.  A passenger list might just give me the name of the town she came from.  I have looked quickly and did not find her, but haven’t yet dug deeper.  I also have the name of her mother who was living with her in 1930 so I can look for her migration.  I think I have to go to the Town Clerk’s office to look at/obtain a copy of her death certificate, which might provide some information.  I will pull her marriage license and certificate from the microfilm in Salt Lake City in September when Judy and I go.  I have made a first attempt to contact the cemetery where she is buried to see what information they might have.

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