25 February 2017

Breaking Through My Brick Wall

One of my most frustrating brick walls has been my 2x great-grandfather Dietrich Heinrich Hasemeyer. I knew he was born in Germany, went to Illinois, then on to Colorado (where he married my 2x great-grandmother), and died in Utah. But I didn't know much about his family, where he came from, or how/when he came to America.

You would think there would be a record of his coming to America, since it would have been around 1880. His Naturalization papers don't give any specifics, just a signed oath of allegiance. I just couldn't figure it out.

Then I remembered that his obituary mentioned his family. His obituary in Utah, 1925, stated that he had 3 brothers living in Illinois. This was the key.

One thing I like about Ancestry.com is the ability to make multiple trees, private ones, and it gives record hints even when the person has no death date listed (potentially living people). I made a Hasemeyer tree just for this investigation.

I looked up the 1920 census and found everyone named Hasemeyer (and other various spellings of the name), and put them all into a tree together. I knew many would not actually be related, but this was just to help keep track of/find other records for them.

I discovered that 3 of the Hasemeyer men I found were brothers, living in the same county in Illinois in 1920. And they all had birth records in Germany, that were searchable! They had the same parents (that's how I know they were brothers and not just people with the same last name).

From there I looked up the parents, to find all the children they had in those German records. Low and behold, they had a son named Heinrich Diedrich Ferdinand Haesemeier, with the exact same birth day as my Dietrich Heinrich Hasemeyer! I know that (in this family at least) the people went by their 2nd given name rather than their 1st given name, so Heinrich Diedrich would have gone by Diedrich/Dietrich most of the time. I had found my family!

All I had left to do was copy the information for my newly found family members from my private Hasemeyer tree onto my regular tree, and attach the sources.

All the other Hasemeyers in Illinois were totally wrong to be my family, the years and places didn't add up at all.

It pays to look up the FAN club of your ancestor and not just the person you are actually looking for (FAN stands for Family, Associates, and Neighbors). Now I am climbing this branch of the tree, finding cousins and grandparents, and so excited to finally break through that brick wall.

Update Mar 11:
I have a DNA match with another Hasemeyer, confirming that I found the right Hasemeyer family!

I saw that I had 2 matches through AncestryDNA with the name Hasemeyer in their family trees. One was related to my known Hasemeyer ancestor, and the other had a private tree. I messaged them, and they responded, confirming that they are directly descended from my ancestors brother. Looks like I have a new cousin (3rd cousin once removed for those who want to know)!

23 July 2016

Testing my DNA

I finally pulled the trigger and bought a DNA testing kit. I took advantage of a sale at AncestryDNA and gave them my spit. It took about a month to get the results. It was very exciting.

The results themselves were not at all surprising. I am pretty darn white, and my DNA reflects that. Also, having learned about European history, and how different parts of your DNA can come from pretty far back, nothing in the tests came as a surprise, even the 'trace regions'.

What I was most excited about, however, was the DNA matches. This is really the best part of doing the Ancestry test. It says I have 90 people that are 4th cousins or closer who have all taken the test. That is awesome! 4th cousins still share enough DNA for the test to be fairly reliable, which means most (if not all) of those people are actually related.

One of those people is my 1st cousin, so I know right off that we are related without having to do any research. Most of the people who use AncestryDNA have at least a small family tree online for you to look through and find matching names. I love seeing how you are related to other people.
I haven't contacted anyone yet, but I am slowly going through my list and trying to find how we are related. I am trying to be as thorough as possible, since some are as obvious at first.

Also, now that I have done the AncestryDNA test, I am going to try and transfer the results to Family Tree DNA to find where I fit over there. So far, the transfer thing isn't working for me (i've heard it's because AncestryDNA recently changed up their test and FTDNA hasn't caught up with it yet), but I am hopeful they will fix the problem soon. My dad took their test years ago, so I have access to his information, and it's pretty interesting how they separate the groups and find common ancestors.

The next time my husband is home for R&R I will have him take a test, I am really curious to see if he has any matches on Ancestry.

For more information on DNA and genealogy I recommend you go to The Genetic Genealogist, and the International Society of Genetic Genealogy

08 July 2016

My First Trip to the Family History Library

My family went on a big roadtrip for almost 3 weeks. Along the way we stopped by 2 different cities my ancestors lived, and I got 6 hours at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My kids weren't as interested in doing genealogy on vacation, but they did like walking around the cemetery at little. And while I was in the library, they went with their father to see temple square and things, so they were sufficiently entertained while I worked.

Anyway, it was my very first time going into the Family History Library. Some things I think I did right, and others I didn't. Here is a summary of my trip, which is hopefully helpful for your first trip there as well.

What I did right:

1. I had a plan. I knew exactly who and what I was looking for, which information I wanted to fill in, and approximately where to find it. I was focusing on my husband's family, which were all in one country, and I knew the records were all in microfilm (thanks to the British, there were pretty good records).

2. I wrote down the film numbers. I had a list of microfilm numbers, and what was in them, so I could go straight to the film and start researching. It's pretty easy to look at the catalog online from home and make a list. You can write down your own list, or make a 'catalog print list' right on the FamilySearch website and simply press print when your ready. Luckily my research was all on one floor of the building, no need to move around too much.

3. I brought my computer, notebook, and cell phone. I was able to take a quick cell phone shot of the indexes for the records (for reference while looking for the record itself), write things down, and even input things directly into my computer genealogy software. It's great to have access to technology while you are there, and to be able to record things in multiple ways. I happen to have a backpack with a place for my laptop, so it wasn't a big deal to carry it all in.

What did wrong:

1. didn't pay attention to where exactly the microfilm was located. Some was in the regular files, some was in the high density stacks (needing a worker to go get it for me), some was restricted (needing me to surrender my drivers license to view it), and some was in the Granite Vaults (needing to be ordered ahead of time). 
For the Fijian records I was looking at, most of the indexes were in the regular files, so I could go and look up people and find record numbers or dates. But then, the records themselves were in the Granite Vault, so I couldn't access it that day (and didn't have another day to come back). I also had a long list of restricted film to look through, but it requires you to give them your drivers license or ID before they go get it for you. I only had time for 2 rolls, and hope to be able to go back some day and see the rest.
If I had been a little more diligent in my prep before hand I could have had the Granite Vault films ordered and waiting for me when I got there.

2. Not giving enough time. 6 hours may seem like a lot, but when you are elbow deep in microfilm and research, is there ever really enough time? We were visiting friends and family in the area, so I wasn't able to carve out any more time, but next time I will try to wrangle a second day out of the trip.

Overall the trip was a success. I know I can order the granite vault films to be delivered to my local genealogy library ($7 per film), so I'm not too bummed that I didn't get to see it there. I loved being there in the library surrounded by so many other genealogists doing work, and even better, finally seeing more people my own age and younger doing genealogy (I am often the odd man out in the age department).
Can't wait until I make time to go back!

24 April 2016

Kids Family History Activities

Getting kids involved with genealogy can be a tough sell. My kids humor me when I want to hang out in a cemetery, but I don't think they'd ever suggest going to one on their own. For our local Family History Fair I made a display with some ideas of activities you could do your kids to get them more with family history. I hope you like some of the ideas.

Activities for Kids
Share stories from your family history, or your own history
Learn what your names and surnames mean
Make or color a family tree
Learn a few words and phrases in your ancestral language
Create a timeline for either your family or an ancestor’s life
Record family stories
Fill out a family group sheet or detailed pedigree
Fill out a “My Family” booklet
Interview and older family member
Visit ancestral places, live or virtually
Watch the Tigger Movie
“Guess Who” game with old family photos
Genealogy Bingo
Make photo ornaments to hang on a “Family Tree”
Turn a family photo into a puzzle (DIY or through an online service)
Make a family cookbook. Make the foods and take photos for your book.
Map your family history, use a paper map or online
Cemetery Scavenger Hunt
Illustrate a family history story (comic book style works too)
Fill out notebooking pages about family history (examples Here and Here)

Activities for older kids and teens
Learn to use FamilySearch (or Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast...): 
     o     Add sources to someone on your tree
     o     Search for records or use the record hints
     o     Add a photo in FamilySearch
Use Puzzilla.org to find cousins
Use social media to find living relatives
Photograph headstones in a cemetery, or transcribe photographs of others
Give indexing a try

23 April 2016

Cemetery Research

I have always liked going to cemeteries (when an actual funeral isn't involved). I like the peacefulness, and the quiet, and the scenery. I like reading the headstones and the inscriptions. I like when families are buried together for generations. When going to a cemetery for genealogy research, you should know where you are going, who you are looking for, and how to photograph the grave once you get there.

First let me start off by saying DO NOT clean the headstone with anything other than a soft brush and plain water. DO NOT use chalk, shaving cream, or other harsh things to make it easier to read.
The BEST thing to do is use a light spritz of water or light at different angles to make it readable.

Shining light at an angle can really help. Photo from wikihow

Wetting the stone can bring out the letters. Photo from rootsweb

A free website with information on cemeteries and gravesites.

Each person has a memorial page with information such as who they are, when they lived, links to who their family is, and where they are buried. Some people have more information listed, such as an obituary or other biography.

You can save the memorial pages into your own personal ‘virtual cemetery’ to keep your relatives easy to find later.

If there is a memorial without a grave photo, you can make a request and a local volunteer will try and take that photo and upload it for you. You can become a volunteer and take headstone photos for others as well.

A free website (with a paid option) to look up headstone photos from around the world. Volunteers use smartphones to take GPS tagged photos of headstones, which are then uploaded to the website and transcribed by other volunteers for easy online searches.

When you go to a cemetery with the BillionGraves app on your phone, you can find the exact location of the grave you are looking for within the cemetery. Anyone can join, download the app and take photos or transcribe photos of headstones.