Saturday, December 17, 2016

Customizing Census Search

I'm catching up on census records so I've tried to make that process a little more efficient.

First, what I do is search the descendant line I'm interested in by using the Focus Group Search in Legacy Family Tree and then search within that search for a particular year using the Census Search. Then I go through the resulting search list using Search Internet for Current Person (button added to my toolbar for easy access). First I have to set up the search parameter.

Each database in FamilySearch has an ID number. These are the search parameters for the census years using a first and surname only. If needed, I then add spouse or 'other person', and/or location to narrow it down. It's less typing than starting with a general search.










Once one of these URLs has been added to Customize Internet Search, the only thing that needs to be changed for a different census year is the ID number and the title of the Search.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Prioritizing Census Search

I have 720 people with census records already downloaded and filed, with transcriptions in Research Notes but not entered under Events yet. This will take me a few more months to complete if I work at it consistently.

Then I'll be able to look for records I don't have yet. I'm already looking ahead at how to do this most effectively. Obviously my closer relatives have higher priority.

The plan is to go by generation from my parents at _01 and moving backwards.


I already have census records for my parents so I'll start at my grandparents. A lot of this is already done but I'm sure there are holes and the idea is to fill in the holes as I work my way further back.

In Legacy Family Tree, under Focus Group Search, click "Add an Individual and Descendants". Then tag the list.

Then, go to Search/Census List and start with 1940 for the census year.

Then Search within these results by the tag number above using the radio button for "Only search the Search List".

Tag these on a different number.

Repeat for 1930, 1920, 1910 and so on until there are no more results.

Then go find whatever can be found. I use FamilySearch and have "Search Internet for Current Person" set up to go directly there. I previously wrote a post about how to set up a search parameter. It can be downloaded from Dropbox here if you'd like to customize the original for FamilySearch that's already in the defaults.

When I've completed those descendants, move on to the next marriage and repeat the whole process.

No matter how far I get, and it does look daunting, at least my closer relatives have the best shot at being completed. The 5th cousins four times removed, maybe not.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Lying Grandmother

My maternal grandmother strung such a line of baloney. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny.

I grew up in a world where I had no past. And I had no past because my parents divorced early which just left me with my mother and my mother had no past. And my mother had no past because her father left and her mother lived behind a moat of secrecy.

According to my mother my grandmother had only two vague memories:
  1. A dark lady with braids leaning over a cooking pot.
  2. An Irish man with red hair.
Just the kind of information any family historian would be thrilled to inherit.

The lies my grandmother told:
  • She was born in 1900.
  • She was part Cherokee.
  • Her first daughter was born in 1921.
  • She had only two vague memories.

Here's some truths:

She was born out of wedlock in 1899.

She was not even remotely Cherokee.

She lived with her mother, grandmother, aunt and 1st cousins until she married in 1919.

Her first daughter was born in January 1920, 7 months after she married. She hid her from the census-taker in March.

Her aunt's youngest child was born (also out of wedlock) when she was 15 but she didn't know anything about a man hanging around her house. Total blank.

When my mother, at age 10, asked her why her mother and her aunt had the same surname, my grandmother said they must have married brothers in a tone that told my mother to SHUT UP.

She was 20 years old when her grandmother died but her children never heard anything about this woman.

Her mother-in-law died when she was 31. Her children didn't know anything about her.  

The grandmother of her husband (also born out of wedlock) died when my mother was 12. My mother never met her or even knew she existed.

She had a close relationship with her father until she was 36 years old and he moved out of the area. My mother never heard of him.

It's been a long road but we know who he is now. And we've figured out some of this other bullshit. Rest in peace, Pearl.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Leaving It or Handing It Over

I was having an email conversation with someone the other day about leaving my genealogy work to someone when I die or handing it over while I'm still living. She didn't understand what I was saying so I had to think about it some more.

This is what I mean.

When I die there are provisions in my Will to leave my work to someone in the family who will either be interested or give it to someone else in the family who's interested. Hopefully it will land with someone who carries on giving it due honor and diligence. I'd like to care if that works out but when I'm gone from Earth I just won't.

Leaving it to someone means it may get dumped in the back of their hard-drive and the rest in the basement because it's too disruptive and too much for them to incorporate into their life. They've just come home from a hard day's work and they'd rather flake out in front of the television. There are valid realities to not-interested and not-enough-time.

Although it would be more work for me, I prefer the idea of transitioning while I'm still alive. That doesn't mean 'handing it over' to someone who says they're 'interested'. A lot of people who are 'interested' in the family history don't know what they're asking for. They're asking because it's a fad or because they have 5 minutes to burn right then.

And the reason they don't know is that they don't understand how many moving parts there are. They think the family history is something they can 'get' while they're double-parked at the curb.

I've written README documents for some of the moving parts to go with my Will.

  • Legacy; learning the software
  • familiarity with the family lines; what's known/unknown
  • MRIN digital filing system (IPTC metadata & related software)
  • paper filing system (file-boxes and binders)
  • photo software
  • online resources (bookmarks, webinars, social media)
  • other tools
  • DNA and related correspondence
  • other correspondence
  • privacy concerns, copyright, etc.

That's a daunting lot of stuff.


Off and on over the years I've heard either first or second-hand of someone in my family who's 'interested'.

Ten years ago I wrote 18 weekly installments; the family history as a cliff-hanger. I thought I was being entertaining. I sent it to two sisters and two nieces. Three of them ignored me. Only one sister wrote back to say she couldn't follow it. Really? Am I that abstruse as a writer?

I've stopped being a lemming running to the sea and smartened up. Since I obviously don't know what they mean by 'interested', and they don't know enough to know what they mean, I've made a list of potential candidates and I'm working on creating an invitation for Next Keeper of The Family History. I don't know if I'll send it; I'm just playing with the idea.

Meanwhile, I've thought about what transitioning means exactly. How would I go about this? It seems to me there's a way to develop someone's interest instead of just throwing an 800 page Descendants Book Report at them and watching it go down the toilet because they don't understand what they're being given. And who could blame them? Weekly installments wasn't it either.

If they're interested then let them earn it. Earning it means making time, paying attention and being willing to learn something. Call me old-fashioned.

The only mandatory step in transitioning is they have to have their own copy of genealogy software. If they inherit the whole thing when I die they're going to have to do that anyway. If they can't get that far I figure they're not that interested. Of course I would prefer it be Legacy because that's what I use and it would be easier if we were on the same page.

And it means they're hands-on from the beginning. They don't get a free ride and they don't have to be bored to death by me talking over their heads. They can play with it on their own time putting in a few people they know like their parents and siblings and then I will feed them more information.

In a relaxed sort of way, when they have time, I will export one marriage at a time with the accompanying folder of documents, leaving time for absorption and discussion as I work my way up the direct lines. That means they're learning how to import a family file. They're learning about their ancestors. They're learning the software. They're learning the filing system. They're learning what I don't know yet and they're learning about privacy and copyright issues.

If they poop out after one generation I'm gone too. If they stick with me, I'll stick with them.

Surely, by the time the direct lines are transitioned they'll have a good handle on how things work.

Right now, the next generation of my family range from ages 33 to 44. Some of them have children, some of them don't. All of them work from morning til night in areas of their own interest. The family history is a vague curiosity for some. For some it's not even on their radar; they couldn't care less. So be it. None of them has asked to take this on; I'm just saying I have a plan if they do.

In the meantime, the satisfaction in this biz comes in the present tense; answering questions, solving problems, breaking down brick walls, teaching and learning with people who are presently engaged. And all of this will live to see another day.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Genealogy Overwhelm

One thing at a time; exactly how I do everything else in my life.

Say I'm cleaning up the kitchen. Then I find one cupboard that seems to be a project in itself. Do I go back to generally cleaning up the kitchen or do I focus on that one cupboard?

Say I pick the cupboard. Then I find a forgotten project in that cupboard that could be a day's work all by itself. Do I go back to cleaning up that one cupboard or do I start to focus on that one project?

Decisions, decisions.

As of today, there are 22,922 individuals in my Legacy database. Fact: There's not enough time.

Two things.

1) If I'm working on something and I find a tangent, which I always do, I add the tangent to a running to-do list.

2) If it's a web page, I drag the shortcut into a folder of genealogy shortcuts.

What's most important to me will always rise to the top. Just like everything else in life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


My mother's paternal grandfather's surname is WEST, proven through Y-DNA. He's either the great- or great-great grandson of Willis WEST and Sarah GAINEY, born around the 1860's or 1870's in North Carolina. Probably Johnston Co., but it could be Sampson or thereabouts.

I've put together a list of WEST men that fit the criteria. It could be one of them or it could be someone else. I strongly suspect that BLACKMAN or BLACKMON is also in his ancestry.

Surname, Given names BirthDt BirthPl DthDt DthPl Father Mother
WEST, Albert Sidney 02-Jan-1874 Sampson, NC 22-Aug-1938 Salisbury, Rowan, NC John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Archie Berry 31-Dec-1878 Johnston, NC 27-Apr-1943 Wake, NC James Allen WEST Sarah Right BEASLEY
WEST, Atlas Z. 26-Dec-1880 Johnston, NC 13-May-1956 Smithfield, Johnston, NC Franklin WEST Narcissus BLACKMAN
WEST, Charles Bayard Sr. 07-Feb-1877 Sampson, NC 17-Apr-1948 Kinston, Lenoir, NC John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Charles Sylvester 24-Aug-1867 Johnston, NC 28-May-1941 Benson, Johnston, NC Lloyd WEST Martha MORGAN
WEST, Charlie Franklin Abt 1870 NC Franklin WEST Narcissus BLACKMAN
WEST, Esther Perry 08-Dec-1877 Benson, Johnston, NC James Allen WEST Sarah Right BEASLEY
WEST, John Claude 23-Apr-1873 Sampson, NC 3-Feb-1957 John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Lloyd M. Abt 1863 Johnston, NC 8-Jan-1940 Elevation Township, Johnston, NC Allen Jesse WEST Lucy BAKER
WEST, Robert Marshall 14-Jun-1869 Johnston, NC 14-Jan-1942 Salisbury, Rowan, NC John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Vassey 25-Jun-1872 Johnston, NC 5-Mar-1915 Ingrams Township, Johnston, NC Jesse Anderson WEST Sr. Nancy JOHNSON
WEST, William Henderson 08-Jan-1866 NC 14-Jun-1912 Allen Jesse WEST Lucy BAKER

If you know any of these men or their families or anyone I've left out that could also fit, please contact me at

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Robert David Johnson

After many years of looking, it's now known that Robert David Johnson is my mother's maternal grandfather. He had a child with someone before he married and that child is my grandmother. Below is what I've been able to put together about his family from publicly available records. He was the son of David P. Johnson and Catherine Tyner. He was a lumber mill operator in Johnston Co. in 1930. I would like to talk to anyone who knows this family. If that's you, please contact me at

1-Robert David JOHNSON b. 25 May 1876, Smithfield, Johnston, NC, d. 29 Sep
  1952, New Bern, Craven, NC
 +Lula Zanie SMITH b. 20 Oct 1882, Wilson, NC, m. 14 Dec 1904, Ingrams
  Township, Johnston, NC, d. 01 Sep 1936, Smithfield, Johnston, NC, par. Henry
   2-David Paul JOHNSON b. 01 Aug 1903, Wilson, NC, d. 03 Oct 1960, (Wilson,
     Wilson, NC)
    +Ruby Iva BARNES b. 21 Feb 1906, Wilson, NC, m. 15 Jun 1921, Wilson,
     Wilson, NC, d. 12 Apr 1990, Wilson, Wilson, NC, par. William Henry BARNES
     and Mary Frances BARNES
      3-Paul Leondes JOHNSON b. 25 Jun 1923, Wilson, NC, d. 07 Apr 1992, Sims,
        Wilson, NC
       +Alice Lucille BARNES b. 15 Oct 1923, Wilson, NC, m. 26 Dec 1942,
        Wilson, NC, d. 25 Apr 2000, Wilson, Wilson, NC, par. Clinton Oliver
        BARNES and Vida MEWBORNE
      3-Robert H. JOHNSON b. Abt 1928, NC
   2-Robert Silas JOHNSON b. 06 May 1906, Johnston, NC
    +Marguerite Delois LOCKE b. Abt 1912, Franklin, OH, m. 03 Feb 1930, Putnam,
     WV, par. Elmer Andrew LOCKE and Alma Rosette DAVIS
      3-Frances Jeanne JOHNSON b. 29 Sep 1930, Lenoir, NC
   2-William Jennings Bryant JOHNSON b. 08 Jun 1908, NC, d. 18 Jul 1937, Stump
     Sound, Onslow, North Carolina, United States
    +Sue Taylor CHAUNCEY b. Abt 1915, m. 19 Aug 1936, Pamlico, NC
      3-Robert Bryan JOHNSON b. 11 Mar 1937, Washington, Beaufort, NC
       +Virginia Dare KEECH b. Abt 1943, m. 30 Jul 1958, Beaufort, North
        Carolina, United States, par. Edgar KEECH and UNKNOWN
         4-Robert Bryan JOHNSON Jr. b. 04 Apr 1959, Washington, Beaufort, NC
         4-Emily JOHNSON b. 06 Nov 1960, Washington, Beaufort, NC
         4-Tammie Raye JOHNSON b. 28 May 1963, Washington, Beaufort, NC
   2-Dixie Faye JOHNSON b. 07 Apr 1911, NC, d. 15 May 1974, Raleigh, Wake, NC
    +Edward Stanley ABELL Jr. b. 01 Dec 1900, Johnston, NC, m. 31 Aug 1934,
     Lenoir, NC, d. 27 Mar 1978, Raleigh, Wake, NC, par. Edward Stanley ABELL
     Sr. and Irene PAGE
      3-Edwina Faye ABELL b. 07 Aug 1934, Smithfield, Johnston, NC, d. 21 Mar
        1999, Chapel Hill, Orange, NC

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Transcription Help

I caught Cuz transcribing records by hand. Is she kidding me? I don't mean the ones that need to be transcribed. I mean the ones that are already done.

I don't know how works but at FamilySearch there's a COPY button at the top of each record page. For example:

When you click COPY, what copies to your clipboard is the entire transcription on the page including the source citation.

After clicking COPY I go to which I keep bookmarked. Then I do Ctrl+V to paste into the top box. Then I click the second radio button which says "Replace both multiple whitespaces and tabs with a single space". And then click:

The text from the top box will appear in the second box all cleaned up, tab spaces removed, and it's ready to paste into Legacy under Source Detail.

As soon as you put your cursor in that second box, the text will highlight. So right click and click Cut. Then go to wherever you go (in my case, Source Detail) and Paste.

If there's an image to download, I paste the source citation from the bottom of the page into the Caption in the metadata.

There are simple ways to get more bang for your buck or, in this case, more bang for your time.

Monday, September 5, 2016

How To Get It Wrong

Looking for my grandmother's father.

About ten years ago, I had my sights set on a particular fellow who was the youngest son in a family where an older brother married one of my great-great grandmother's half sisters. It seemed quite likely that the son of the right name and age was the one who got my great-great grandmother's daughter pregnant. Obviously these two families were at least connected through that one marriage and the younger children could have come in contact through some other family events. Obvious. Done deal. Even though I couldn't find anything else about him except when he was born.

My 94 year old aunt had given me his name and the following is the rest of the story, told repeatedly and consistently over the last 10 years, even though she has Alzheimer's. She doesn't remember what she said 10 seconds ago but this story has never changed.

1900: My great-grandmother did not marry because the fellow she expected to marry got another girl pregnant and married her instead because her father had a shotgun. ONCE she said, "probably" had a shotgun. (I noticed for the first time when I was reviewing my notes the other day.)

1920's: When she was "little" she went to visit him "many times".
He had a nice house in town.
He was a nice looking man, always dressed neatly in a shirt and tie.
A pretty girl (younger than my grandmother) always let them in and then disappeared.
He was an office-worker or something; he was not a farmer.

My mother immediately discounted the idea that he wasn't a farmer. How would she know? She was just a little kid. He could have cleaned up before the visits and put on a tie.

I discounted the idea that he lived in town. Who knows where he actually lived. He could have been using a house that belonged to someone else. What does "nice house" mean anyway? I think I live in a nice house. The Queen of England would consider it a hovel.

Instead, I fixated on his marriage. Based on when my grandmother was born, and the detail that the other girl's father had a shotgun, I figured he must have gotten married late 1899 or early 1900.

I got a list of all males of that name married in that county during that time period. The fellow described at the top of the page didn't fit the time-frame so I threw him out.

There was only one who did. Married in early 1900. Perfect. I paid the local historical society to find a living descendant, paid for his DNA test, wrote many emails, stayed awake at night excitedly combing through every detail of how things must have happened. And then watched the whole thing fall apart.

He did not live in town, he was a farmer, his photo did not bear any particular resemblance to my family with the exception of one daughter who could have looked like my grandmother. Sort of. Maybe. Still undaunted I began conjecturing. Maybe they had clandestine meetings at a friend's place in town? Maybe that's why someone else answered the door? Maybe it was just the photographic light that day and if he wasn't wearing a hat he would look more like HIM?

My mother sent the photo to my aunt, twice, but it never connected because the letter would arrive one day, my mother would phone her a week later and my aunt wouldn't remember where she put the letter. Chewing my toenails off over here ...

Two more years go by. I'm sitting on my couch the other day thinking, Let's go back to the beginning.

What did my aunt actually SAY? What does my aunt actually KNOW from her own direct experience? Not the part she heard third or fourth or fifth hand 20+ years after the fact. OK, turf out the part about the other girl and the father with the shotgun. Whew. Now, I don't know when he got married to someone else or if he ever did.

Back to the original list. GOT HIM. The only one who lived in town, had a nice house ... I scrolled backwards and forwards through the census records looking at house values, alternating with street view in Google Maps ... and he was a businessman, (hence the shirt and tie and neat appearance) the only one not a farmer. His youngest child was a daughter who was a teenager when my grandmother was in her mid to late 20's; 16 when my grandmother was 27. That would register in a child's mind as "younger" whereas the difference between 22 and 27 probably wouldn't.

Guess who this guy is? The one described at the top of the page!  He did get another girl pregnant, when my grandmother was 3 years old, and married her a year and a half later. So there probably was no father with a shotgun.

All I need now is a photograph.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Overcoming Resistance

I have an entire room in my house devoted to gym equipment. You know, the stuff you buy on Boxing Day when you're feeling motivated for New Year's.

It could be a spare bedroom or a crafts room or something else but I put all my best intentions for getting fit in there instead.

And I've had an extremely difficult time using it. I'd pass by the doorway on the way to the bathroom several times a day and never notice it.

I am not one of those people who wakes up at 5 in the morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and jumps on the treadmill with unbounded glee. I usually wake up anywhere between 9 and 11 in a bit of a stupour.

I thought and thought about how to overcome my resistance and tried every trick I could think of. I left a light on, I decorated it in bright colors to make it more user-appealing, all to no avail.

But, I finally got it. If I can commit to at least walking into that room once every day and staying there for one minute, somewhere between the count of 1 and 60, I will pick up a dumbbell. Out of boredom if nothing else. Once I've gotten that far, the rest is easy.

Over time the old bod realizes it likes the feeling of stretching and looks forward to it.

I find the one minute rule works for writing as well. As I mentioned last post, I've been working on a personal memoir for the past two years. It's in outline form split into years and then sub-items of various topics and vignettes.

I don't know how it ever got to 350 pages at the rate I was going but that's how it's done; one minute at a time. The commitment I made was to stop any time it got to be too much. A lot of days that was 5 minutes.

On the days when I think I just can't face another word, all I have to do is pick one item and look at it for one minute. Something always happens. A little editing here or there and I'm off to the races.

In the grand scheme I'm committed to writing for at least 15 minutes a day. It could be The Book, or my dream journal or anything else. Today it's this.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Time - No Time

I started looking at the things I do as splitting into Physical and Non-Physical Time, meaning things that have to happen on specific dates, and things I do where I lose track of time; writing and designing and looking for answers, where I sometimes konk out in the middle of a thought and wake up at 3 in the morning still dressed in my street clothes and shoes. In other words, Outer Worldly/Inner Worldly.

At first glance, Physical Time seems to involve other people and their rules or requirements. For instance, if I don't pay a bill on time the bank dings me with a late fee. If I don't update my README files regularly, my PoA won't have the information he needs when the time comes.

So, roughly sorted, I thought Physical Time is about other people and Non-Physical Time is about me. Except, when I looked at it closer I realized it's not that simple.

When I segued to trying to make the same division of labour split into Commitment/Optional I realized I was looking at a different concept altogether. My Inner life could hardly be called Optional.

Writing, although it's on the Non-Physical/Inner/Me side, is a Commitment but I had to think about why. Some people have told me that I teach them. Other people have said that I entertain them. Am I committed to teaching? No. Am I committed to being an entertainer? No.

What I am committed to is the Practice of writing; for clarifying my thoughts, using my creative imagination and problem-solving, skills that are useful to life in general and that, in many different ways, affect the way people respond to me. So, again, it's about other people.

For the past two years I've been writing a personal memoir. There's a good chance no-one else will ever read it. But does that make it Optional? Perhaps. But it's been so illuminating to me that it's affected my relationships so I consider it a Commitment.

Someday I may become so enlightened I can stop thinking and, consequently, stop writing.

Physical exercise and healthy eating is not a Goal or Optional. It's a Daily Commitment because, again, it affects the quality of my life with other people. As far as my Inner side is concerned, I could space it out all day and rot away in the midst of an interesting insight.

If someone else has to take care of me I won't necessarily like having to play by their rules. So, in that way, it's still about other people.

So, basically, there's Outer/Inner split into 3 sections: Daily Commitments, Goals, and Optional. I have a long list of Outer Optional which I've hidden in the back of beyond. And I call them that because they are things I can do but right now I don't see any direct or indirect benefit to myself or anyone else by pursuing them.

There's a point where doing any more of something mechanically-driven is not going to make the point any clearer.

As far as I know, there is no such thing as Inner Optional. Unless it would be knowingly refusing to pay attention to dreams, insights and intuition. But then who would write that on a to-do list?

I've only met one person who told me they don't dream. I suppose they're so focused on moving their physical body around in space they're not aware that life is made of anything else.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

MRIN Numbering

Legacy automatically assigns an MRIN (Marriage Record Identification Number) to each new marriage entered.

Because I file by MRIN, this has taken some doodling around. Much less so if I'd had a wide angle view from the beginning.

The first thing I realized was that I should separate my mother's numbers from my father's because my Cuz is only interested in my father's line. It's easier to pick up a contiguous batch than pick through looking for the relevant ones.

Later, I nested the folders the same way they exist in the tree so it didn't really matter.

And then later still I realized that sometimes I like to look at all the Inlaws on one line or another and I couldn't find them easily because the numbers were random.

Awhile back I had to do some extensive renumbering because I'd started out with 4-digit numbers when I should have started with 5. I've now given each of my father's lines 25,000 numbers and my mother's side, 50,000. And I split the Inlaws into their own sub-ranges.

So, I've created blocks of numbers for my 3 family lines; my father's father, (BEEKEN) my father's mother, (WILKE) and my mother's parents, (BAKER). My mother's parents' lines are so inter-related they're all the same line really. And then another block for UNRELATED. I know from DNA these are my mother's line but I don't know how yet.

Most recently, I've added numbers for MRINs that don't have documents/folders (yet). So, this is what it looks like:

Beeken Range: 1-19999; Inlaws: 20000-24999
Wilke Range: 25000-44999; Inlaws: 45000-49999
Baker Range: 50000-89999; Inlaws: 90000-99999

Beeken: next folder for documents: 1882
numbers used: 1-1881
No Folder: 2729

Beeken Inlaws: next folder for documents: 24297
numbers used: 24000-24296
No Folder: 24947

Wilke: next folder for documents: 30149
numbers used: 30000-30148
No Folder: 30196

Wilke Inlaws: next folder for documents: 46014
numbers used: 46000-46013
No Folder: 46088

Baker: next folder for documents: 70584
numbers used: 50000-50999, 60000-60999, 70000-70583
No Folder: 71850

Baker Inlaws: next folder for documents: 90461
numbers used: 90000-90460
No Folder: 91019

Unrelated: 80306

Up front it takes a little more time to change the MRIN as I'm entering data, but over the long range it keep things less confusing. If I enter a BAKER marriage right now it will automatically pick up 2729 from the BEEKEN range as the next available number. That's why I renumber as I go.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Computer Tasks, Unwired

You think learning how to use a computer takes time, try going back the other way. I'm having to reverse engineer my brain.

I'd love to have a calendar that does it all but I haven't figured out how yet, except on a desktop computer. I still don't have any mobile devices and I don't want any.

Back when PDA's cost $1,000 by the time you added in a screen protector and a pouch for it and taxes and extended warranty that you had to have because you could see plain as day the thing was so fragile you'd probably smash it the first week out, all I wanted was something to put a calendar and notes on. I did not want something that could stand on its head and spit gold balls. Apparently, my needs were too small because there wasn't such a thing.

Even my $5 paper calendar is way over the top with pages of useless information like wedding anniversary symbols and mileage-from-here-to-there charts but misses the most important part; a page for notes in between each double page of little calendar squares. Hello, people?

So, back to the drawing board. I made my own. This is for computer tasks. This tells me the days when I have to turn my computer on or my life will spiral down the toilet. It also shows me the days when I can stay in bed and the universe will continue on as it should without me.

I can't write these things in the little calendar squares because I need to leave the squares open for appointments and surprises and the squares aren't big enough. I can circle the days (been there/done that) but I don't know why I need to turn my computer on. And if I don't know why then I have to turn my computer on to find out. And the next thing I know it's 16 hours of genealogy rabbit holes later and my God, is there no end to it?

Here it is, in all its un-digitized glory. One line for each day of the month, five columns for five to-do's. I never go over five unless I'm doing research and this is not for that. (But it could be.) This is pay bills, external backups, that kind of thing. The world-stopping stuff.

Any of you who have downloaded the slant chart already know the drill. Print a copy, then take it down to your local shop and get it laminated for about $2 and write on it with non-permanent ink. At the end of each month, wipe it clean with a damp cloth and start again. You'll only ever need one of these. If you have a smartphone or tablet you probably don't need one at all. If you do, download here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Elder Care, continued

"Life is what happens when you're making other plans."

However, making a plan ain't necessarily bad.

From the human-interest files of people I've actually met:

1) Couple married for ten years. Husband dies. Woman finds out from his Will that he's left the house to his son from a previous marriage. He leaves her a tiny amount of money and she has to be out of the house within 3 months.

2) Married for decades. Big house, big life. Woman leaves all financial matters to her husband. It's "his job" she says. Man dies. Woman finds out from his Will that he lost all their money in the last few years of his life making bad deals when his mind was going. AND she has to get out of the house to pay his debts. At the age of 70-something she's broke and homeless.

3) Married for decades. Husband dies. Friend has to show wife how to write a cheque.

Why are spouses not discussing financial and legal matters while they're both still alive? It seems like giving your spouse the middle finger by WINGING them with a big surprise.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Elder Care

My aunt who turns 94 this week was found a month ago lying alone in a parking lot after a fall. I don't know how long they (the Lifeline people) had been looking for her but it took a flashlight to find her. She was on her way to a card game. Or thought she was.

She was diagnosed with having dementia about ten years ago. For reasons I'm sure I will never understand she was living alone in a condo. A nice condo. Actually, a high-end condo. In Florida. Nice furniture. But alone.

Twice a day a woman would drop in, make her something to eat and leave again. The rest of the time she sat alone. Or walked around her condo. Or slept. Mostly slept. Once in a while she'd get together with some other condo residents and play cards. Or pretend to.

Less than a year ago she tripped over a living room table on her way to somewhere; caught a corner and went crashing into a heap. Ended up in the hospital for a couple of months doing 'rehab' and was then sent home again.

The plan for years was that the woman who made her food would come and live with her full-time when she couldn't take care of herself anymore. Hello! She already couldn't take care of herself anymore.

Now she's back in the same hospital. She won't be going home again.

I find it safest to go through life without opinions but I do have questions:

Why was a 90+ year old woman with dementia living alone in a condo? Why was she not put into a long-term care facility about the time she was first diagnosed with dementia? One of those 5-star resorts where there's company, card games, and actual CARE going on. Her late husband was a multi-millionaire. It's not like she couldn't afford it.

If you're afraid your parents will spend all their money and you won't get a big enough slice, get over yourself.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Research Notes

Between myself and other people my Research Notes in Legacy became a catch-all for anything and everything that didn't fit somewhere else, or work intended to be done later. Years since I first thought I should I've finally cleared my Research Notes of almost everything except census records.

Even with another twenty good years I won't live long enough to enter the data for 989 heads of household and their assorted spouses and children over several decades each so I'm leaving them alone. For now. They've all been tidied up so they can be printed in reports looking just fine. Close enough.

Although I'm fascinated with any kind of note organization software, the point of making OneNote or Evernote a way-station for genealogy research has gone right over my head. Maybe I just haven't looked into it enough.

No matter where you put your genealogy stuff to begin with, eventually it's supposed to end up in your database, right?

If I was to add one more third-party tool to 'organizing' my head might explode.

So I thought I'd shorten the process, now that I've taken the convenient dumping ground of Research Notes out of my realm of possibility.

The more this extended family thing stretches out the more it seems critical to be super-efficient about it. Unless you're really laid back and the pressure of it never gets to you.

I had an idea awhile back that I would quit when I got to 20,000 people. Well, it's now 22,135 and I still haven't found my missing great-grandfathers so this could go on for a bit longer.

I work on two monitors. I have Legacy open on one. I have Firefox open on the other. When I find a record I want I enter it immediately. I copy the text, strip the tab spaces out it using The Remove Extra Whitespace Tool, find the Master Source or create a new one, enter the Source Detail where appropriate and cite the source wherever it's needed.

Then I download the image, if there is one, number it, name it, enter the source citation and the rest of the metadata, and file it. Done.

Now there's the issue of what else I find out of the corner of my eye while I'm traveling around. I have a folder called for filing. I could call it rabbit holes or something like that.

If I see something interesting I simply drag the URL into the folder and forget about it til later when I might be interested again.

I would hate to miss anything.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Are You Organized Yet?

I've been thinking about this again after talking to Cuz. She sounded a bit dejected. We're both getting older and the time's coming to pass on our family history work to the next generation. Not right this minute but we're both old enough to be thinking about it. She said no-one wants her work because we live in a world of instant gratification and genealogy takes time and no-one's got time.

True. Sort of. If you're looking at it in the worst possible frame of mind.

It's not that people don't want your genealogy, which a lot of people say. Everybody wants their family history. It's a very IN thing nowadays. Everyone wants a family tree. What people DON'T want is the chaos of it.

I could stop here and tell some stories but I won't ...

Suffice to say --- Relatives come into your house and see papers and books and file folders and boxes scattered around everywhere and they immediately think, NO! I DON'T WANT THAT. They can hardly wait for you to die so they can throw it all away. Of course, chaos comes with the territory.

It's a matter of degree. If you can hand someone else a somewhat tidy package of files and instructions they might make it to the next step.

Step One for the Uninitiated: Take a Deep Breath. Do Not Be Afraid.

I wrote two posts on taking inventory over five years ago. My system hasn't changed much since then. I did what I said I was going to and I update the README files monthly to note any changes. It's gotten better tuned as I've gone along. And it takes the weight off my mind knowing at least I've tried to do something about it.

Genealogy Filing: Taking Inventory, Part 1
Genealogy Filing: Taking Inventory, Part 2

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Writing Quandary

I've been writing stories since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Probably around age 2. But I still don't know how to do it. If they taught me in school I missed it.

I have Scrivener on my computer. I've even tried to learn it. The Getting Started video is over two hours long. I tried twice and never finished it. I tried using the software without knowing how because I sort of got the drift anyway. But maybe not considering some people write novels with it. So far it doesn't work any better for me than ActionOutline which doesn't have a learning curve that you'd ever notice. They're both basically outline software.

Here's my problem. I think in circles and I write in spheres. Outline software works in straight lines.

I write a bit. Next day or so I write a bit more. Along the way I sleep and dream or I'm lying around and I start thinking about something I already wrote about but I want to add something else.

So I use Search to find where that part of the story is and I try to insert my new ideas but now it sounds clunky. It's like having a rock in a tire. It was a sphere. Now it's got a ka-flump, ka-flump, ka-flump in it.

And then later re-reading another chapter I realize I already wrote that part but not in quite the same way. Rinse and repeat this about 50 times and I've got a mess on my hands. Over a year and a half it's grown to 350 pages and I'm not saying the entire thing is a mess but I sense myself going into avoidance mode lately.

At this point I'm keeping a sub-item called *notes and I write in pen or pencil (still my preference after all these years) on the clipboard I keep next to my bed. Then later I prop it up in front of my keyboard and type it all into *notes. It's a pile of notes exactly the way they come out in no particular order.

If I had a digital tablet instead this would save a couple of steps but I've never tried one and I don't know if I'd like typing with a virtual keyboard. It seems weird just thinking about it.

So now what I do is paste my notes into a text document and go through them on the left monitor and try to find where to add them on the right.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dropbox, Selective Sync

This is a hypothetical Dropbox situation.

Let's say you're in an accident, serious enough you're not going home again and someone's cleaning up your house and getting rid of most of your belongings.

Or let's say you die and your computer gets stripped by your executor in the midst of cleaning up your leftovers.

Either way, or some other way, someone or something is wiping your computer.

Do you have anything in Dropbox that you'd rather have kept? Like the genealogy files you've put in there and/or photographs and/or files you've linked online and want left there?

If you've been backing up your Dropbox contents to an external hard-drive regularly, and left some instructions on where to send the hard-drive, that's got you covered for that part. Although more than one hard-drive is good because they can fail.

When I recently sent 120GB of video to one of my sisters, I told her to immediately copy them onto her computer and then back them up again to a newer external. Honestly, people don't take this stuff seriously enough. Another sister lost ALL her photographs a few years ago because she had no backup for them. But I digress ...

If you're linking files from Dropbox to various places online the external backup won't help you at all.

You know, of course, if you delete something from Dropbox on your computer, in 30 days it's also going to be deleted from your Dropbox account online. Sync means sync.

If someone strips your computer, everything you've got in Dropbox is going to be gone too.

If you want to keep files in Dropbox forever, (however long 'forever' might be) regardless of what happens to your computer, there's an option called Selective Sync.

If I click on the Dropbox icon in my system tray, then click on the little gear icon in the upper right corner and then click on Preferences and the Account tab, I come to Selective Sync. If I click on that I come to a list of my Dropbox contents.

The folders that I've unchecked will stay in the cloud on Dropbox as long as my account exists but they will not show up on my computer. That means if my computer is stripped, the files are still where I want them to be.

There's a slight change of habit required here. IF I want to add a file to one of the unchecked folders, I will have to add it online. I can't put it in Dropbox on my computer because the folder's not there.

This is a simple matter of dragging and dropping the file from my computer into the right folder online, first opening my Dropbox account from this small icon.

If the folder isn't already there, I create one. And then drop the file in.

As I drag the file across, the folder will light up in green to show me that Dropbox sees it coming.

Of course, I also keep a backup of these files on my computer. In the meantime.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


JGEN.WS has been closed.

The old site pages have been archived in Dropbox for your continuing use. To access, click on any of the main categories below.

EverNote 2
MRIN Filing System

Or try searching a word you're looking for:

site search by freefind advanced


The pages have been saved as MHT, a web page archive format, and will be available indefinitely.

Although the pages look similar to the original site pages, the archive is not a website.

With few exceptions the external links from MHT pages work. Internal links to other MHT pages do not work.

You can download folders in zip format using the Download button in the upper right corner of the Dropbox window.


Or you can download a single page by clicking on the one you want.

You do not need a Dropbox account.

MHT pages will open in your web browser but you may have to adjust your settings.

For viewing in Firefox, install the UnMHT extension and then set Firefox as the default program for opening MHT files. Embedded videos won't play directly so click the button to watch them on YouTube instead.

MHT files will open in Google Chrome. Use Open With ... Chrome or set Chrome as your default browser to open MHTML files. Embedded videos will not show at all.

For other browsers, please search your options.