Twisted Branches of Our Family Tree

 
 
 
 
 
 
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George Neupert is my 2nd great grandfather.

George Neupert is my 2nd great grandfather. You'll notice the family resemblance with the fluffy white beard and love of reading. If you find old photos like this that you share with relatives, here's a helpful hint. When you scan the picture, make sure to save the file with a full descriptive name. Instead of calling it “Grandpa George.jpg” or worse yet “scan0076.jpg”, give it a full name with dates or something to help describe it. This photo file name is “Neupert, George abt 1840 to 1925.jpg”.

About twenty years ago I started working on our family tree. I used some hand written genealogy papers that an uncle had put together in 1973. I bought the latest and greatest software of the time which, by todays standards, wasn’t very sophisticated. However, it organized the information and allowed for editing. That was far better than paper and pencil. As genealogy software improved I would buy the new versions every five years or so, and luckily the powers that be came up with a universal data program that transferred easily from program to program.

Most of the best genealogy information comes thanks to the Mormons.

These folks may not have invented genealogy, but they sure have perfected it. They are also happy to share. In the early, pre internet days I would go to the local Mormon temple and go through the microfiche record files. This was mind numbing work. Hours would go by and I would be lucky to find one tidbit and then print it out. I went to libraries and wrote off to different states to order copies of records, hoping they would be relevant. I got information from relatives that was primarily based on memory. Written records were few and far between.

World War I Draft Registration Cards,Nardo leonardi 1917-1918

My grandfather's World War I Draft Registration Card.

Enter the dawn of the internet and things got a little easier. There were the beginnings of genealogy websites where you could upload your data and share with people of similar interests. This was akin to mailing them a copy of your family tree, just faster. Data mining for records was in it’s infancy. As with everything else on the internet, genealogy advances have progressed geometrically.

There’s a new reality show on TV called, ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. It follows a celebrity each week as they go in search of their family history. Their system for finding their ancestral roots is fairly well done but a little impractical for us commoners. They fly to various cities and meet with professional researchers who bring them the faded copies of their ancestors’ time on Earth. I’ve commented to my lovely and patient wife as we’ve watched the show,

“Why don’t they just print it out off Ancestry.com?”

She gives me ‘the look’ that I’ve come to know and love and replies,

“And that would make for a fascinating TV show. ‘Oh look, Steve Buscemi is clicking his mouse! Look he’s clicking it again! Oh look!! His printer is running!!’”

I have to agree with her (dammit), it would not hold an audience. The show does make some good points and shows that researching your family lines not only reveals information about your family but it truly gives a sense of history.

Schuyler, John- Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 Record

The download photo of the 1863 Civil War Muster rolls of John J. Schuyler, my 2nd great grandfather. You can zoom into your documents like this one and easily read the original information.

I love reading old census sheets. I know you’re starting to yawn if you’ve stuck with me this far. But the old handwritten sheets tell a lot about our country and the changes it goes through. Where it lists jobs, you might see ‘telegraph operator’. In the 1930 census most of the column marked jobs say ‘none’ as employment at the time was rare. This is especially true of the wife in the family. There may be nine children in the family but her job is ‘none’. Raising kids wasn’t considered work. Later census entries list the wife as ‘housekeep’ or ‘keephouse’.

The early census records also show how many parents were born in other countries. As we argue about immigration, let’s remember that many of our grandparents (including some of mine) were immigrants.

One thing I’ve found lacking in many family trees online are stories. There is plenty of data about birth, death, marriage, immigration etc. but not many stories.

Mina Schuyler recital newspaper clipping

An early 20th century newspaper article I downloaded about Mina Schuyler, my 2nd cousin 2x removed. The other task the website simplifies is the 'how are you related' problem. It figures it for you automatically with a click!

If you put your family tree up on Ancestry.com it compares your information to six million public family trees and pops up a little leaf icon next to the person when it finds some ancestor that may match yours. (Living people are not included in the search, so relax.) I have browsed hundreds of peoples’ family trees and have found the human interest stories few and far between.

This is our chance to flesh out some history and leave something behind for grandchildren not yet born.

Instead of slogging through libraries, frustrated and ignored, future generations can read and see little glimpses of people gone by. Stories of everyday life that may seem mundane today become history tomorrow. These anecdotes will be here for a very long time.

So here’s my challenge to you. Start gathering up some family stories.

Especially the ones your Uncle Adoniah keeps repeating that drives you crazy, and write them down. Better yet just record them in Uncle Adoniah’s own voice. The Ancestry.com site let’s you upload not just the facts, but also pictures, stories, audio and video. This may sound like an ad for Ancestry.com but it’s not. I don’t have any association with them or get anything from sharing this. I just think it’s a cool site!

All the information you enter manually and your family tree site is itself free. They make their money from selling lots of accessory items which you can choose to buy or ignore. When you’re ready to start researching it’s about $15.00 a month for unlimited research and downloads. This gives you access to all of the other family trees where you can see who matches up with you and who has matching ancestors. You can also search, read and download scanned copies of millions of old records going back hundreds of years. My personal research system is to pay for a month
Schuyler, Mina (Glover) Age 18- sister of Roy Schuyler

This fantastic 100 year old photo was shared by second cousin Sue who contacted me through Ancestry.com. She has shared many photos and stories about her colorful and amazing part of our family.

and and download as much research as I can and then cancel. (Don’t forget to cancel at the end of your month, or your next month will automatically be charged.) They make it very easy to start and stop your monthly subscription. A month’s worth of time will give you fodder to work for several more months. Then when I’ve gone as far as I can with what I’ve got I buy another month’s worth.

When I used to mail off for records, I’d spend far more than that in fees just to get a few records that may or may not have been correct. I’d also have to wait weeks for it to arrive in the mail. Now I can instantly read the original document on line and decide if it’s a match. It’s also good to go back every 6 months or so because they scan and index thousands of new records each week. So if it what you need isn’t there today, it may be there in 6 more months.

Another great feature is the “invitation”. Once you get started, you can invite your cousin, sister, friend, or uncle to view or contribute. You just e-mail them from within the program and decide how much control you want to give them. They can be a ‘guest’ which means they can just view it or all the way to ‘editor’ which gives them full rights to add or change information and also to see living people’s information. The tree can be set as public or private, too.

All this is FREE!. So get out there and make some history!

13 comments on “Twisted Branches of Our Family Tree

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    I am so GLAD you are doing this, Alan. Stuart is smiling at you from heaven! I have lots of things to send to you; it will take me a while to get it packed up and sent.

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      Thanks Kathy, I’m glad to be doing it. Since I’m retired and still have some of faculties left, I figure I can get a lot done. I’ll look forward to going through what you’ve found!

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    I’ve always wanted to do this for my family, but it looks so overwhelming! Maybe I’ll give it a shot though…

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      Tamara, It’s easier than you think. Just start small. It’s free for anything you put in yourself so you got nothing to lose. Then hook some relatives in as ‘editors’ and they can add the stuff that they know. Good luck and of course I’m always here for advice… whether you want it or not.

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    This could be fun although I suspect there are more than a few stories in my family I might not want to know about. If the ones I do know are anything to go by . . .

    Love the family resemblance!

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    We all know that Mormons baptize the dead, and surely, there is no connection to them keeping the world’s largest genealogical database, right? ;)

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    This post is amazing! Your review of Ancestry.com is informative and thorough and you kept it concise. You can actually do a sideline of reviewing websites … Imagine the stories and history you’ll discover in your process …

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    I would be remiss in my “duties” as a professional history (PhD, Univ of Illinois, 1983) if I did not point out that what you describe as an 1863 Muster Roll showing (among others) John Schuyler is in fact the record of his registration for the Draft of that year. Fortunately for him, to the right of his name on line 2, the enrolling officer noted that John had been discharged from the 95th Illinois Infantry. Having served, he was not subject to the Draft. I checked, and yes, he had been for disability, on February 25, 1863. BTW, when he enlisted he did so on the same day and into the same company as Hezekiah Schuyler, who by virtue of the same surname, etc is probably a brother of your John.

So? What do you think?