Saturday, May 28, 2011

Resources and Timelines in the Hunt for Martha/Mary

As I continue to spin my wheels while trying to find my Great Grandmother, Martha/Mary Evingham/Smith (this family line picked up and discarded names at will), my frustration level inches ever higher.  Once I received my Grandmother's (Una/Viola) death certificate listing her mother and father's names I thought for sure that was the break through I needed.  No, the brick wall is now another generation taller.

I added Martha and Joseph to my online tree at Ancestry and waited for the "shaking leaves" to appear.  That's how it happens on the commercials, right?  I am still waiting. Not one, single hint has appeared.  My searches are to no avail, my queries posted on message boards remained unanswered.  Time to go back to the drawing board.

I began listing the resources available to me.  Some I had already contacted using my Grandmother's name, but now that I have Martha/Mary and Joseph I need to revisit.  I also need to revisit the Genweb site for Livingston County, Illinois and, well, I actually need to revisit every source and/or website that I visited looking for Una/Viola.  This is the point where I realize just how important a research log is...I don't have one, so I really have no idea what sites/resources I did visit/review when looking for Una/Viola.  Take note budding genealogists, that is a lesson in what not to do!  Illinois will be my starting point as that is where Una was born, Nebraska and New Jersey will follow.

I started going through the images of documents and photos I have for this family and started asking myself "what is it I really know about them?".  I was struggling with the "big picture" and making sense of the Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey maze.  A timeline came to mind as a tool to help me visualize the information I had.  I was hopeful that getting my information into the proper sequence would shed some light on where and when I needed to focus my research.

The timeline showed me I had documents and details for my grandfather, Joseph, a few details about Una/Viola, very little on Martha/Mary and nothing on great grandfather Joseph.  I will not let this deter me, I feel better having the information written down. My next step will be to add these timeline items to a digital timeline that will show me the current events at the time.  This might also be a good time to bring Google Earth into the picture.  Illinois, Nebraska and New Jersey are not right next door to each other and moving from one to another seems so random to me.  If I'm missing a significan clue, perhaps seeing that migration route will bring clarity to my search.

Now that I have a defined direction I feel much better, no more stumbling around.  Famous last words! :)


  1. I think that what we need is a genea-secretary!! That would be someone to record all the brilliant things we think and try so we can remember that we did them :-) Hope you manage to at least chip a little off this brick wall.

  2. Diana, you are so right, a genea-secretary would be great! As soon as I posted this I clicked over to FB and saw Thomas' post from ISGS about Illinois County Boarders - Past and Present. That's a sign right? But WHAT does it mean??? :)

  3. I've never used Research Logs either but have recently started using the To Do List function in Legacy to keep track of brick wall work. My "To Do" item is "Identify parents" with notes of when and where I've looked under the "results" tab and ideas for what to do next under the "Task Description" tab. When I need something better formatted, like a chart or longer narrative, I do that in Word but attach it as a source to that To Do item so everything is all together.

    I constantly wish for a genea-secretary but so far one hasn't appeared.

  4. Linda, I have got to start using all of the feature's Legacy has...for instance the Chronology tab! :) And OH look here under the Research Guidance tab...Create Timeline! Time for me to watch the tutorials!

  5. I haven't watched the tutorials - except for the free one. When I 1st started using Legacy, I just clicked on everything to see what it would do.

    The idea of using the to do list for a research log came to me in a session at FGS last summer. I don't do well with paper - that's just something to get lost in my office - so it occurred to me that I might actually use a research log if it was tied to the person in my database.

    So far I only have a couple of people set up like that - lack of a genea-secretary is holding back progress.

  6. If anyone knows where I can get a genea-secretary for cheap, let me know. I've tried research logs, but my Genea-A.D.D. gets in the way, and before I know it, I've searched 28 databases for 247 different people, and not a single log kept. I think I'm going to have to "borrow" your process here. Good luck to you, Jenna. I hope you can at least weaken that brick wall!

  7. I am right outside Livingston Cty, 5 minutes from the IRAD that has Livingston Cty records, and an hour from the State Archives. Let me know if I can help.