Friday, April 24, 2009

Learn From My Mistakes - Source Everything

Nearly a year ago, I made the decision that I was going to completely redo my genealogy because I was so frustrated with not having sources on 95% of my work. I was so angry and fed up with my poor work that I just decided to start all over.

So that is exactly what I did. I began with myself and worked my way back. I sourced every single document I had - and I did it correctly. Now, almost a year later, I have 158 people in my tree.

I've come to learn that genealogy isn't a race. It's not about how many people you have in your tree or how far back it dates - which is exactly what I thought when I began this hobby. Its about the detail, the sources, the evidence, the hunt! It's about breathing a life into your ancestors and honoring the lives that they lived.

My old, unsourced tree had 918 people in it. My new, completely sourced tree, has 158 people in it. Give me the small sourced tree over the big unsourced tree any day!

But What Does "Cite Your Sources" Mean?

I suggest that you refer to this Source Citation Quick Reference sheet over at - it is a great reference tool to have. In fact, I suggest you print it out and keep it close whenever you are doing research.

But remember, this isn't enough. I suggest you buy Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Which you can find in my Genealogy Store)

When you cite your sources, think of it as a way for another person to find that source. So "1930 Census" is not enough. Why? Because it isn't specific enough. You want to give enough information that it serves as almost a "link" to the record itself.

So please....learn from my mistakes and cite your sources! You don't want to have to completely redo all of your hardwork.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A California Port Town - COG

I live in Lomita, California (which, doesn't have very interesting history) so I decided to instead research the town over, where my boyfriend lives: San Pedro, California.

For those of you who don't know where San Pedro is, it is located right across from Long Beach and borders the Los Angeles Harbor.  (For you locals, one end of the 110 freeway ends in San Pedro).

This area of California has a very rich history.  Sailors were known for being in this area in the late 1600s and early 1700s and often docked in the area.  It quickly became a small port town, with sailors trading goods with the Mexicans that lived in the area (This area was part of Mexico at the time).

More recently however, San Pedro has served as a small port town, bringing goods to Los Angeles.  Most of the people that lived here were sailors or fisherman.

During World War II, there was a Japanese population in San Pedro.  Some owned stores and property - and unfortunately, the government placed these people in internment camps.  When the Japanese were released, many left the area.

From then on, San Pedro has spent it's time being a charming little town.  With the Spanish architecture and an appreciation for the sea, San Pedro has charm.  In fact, you can get some of the best breakfast at a little place called Pacific Diner.  This place is almost almost packed - but definitely worth it.

We also some some of the best tide pools ever, which my mom used to walk me along when I was a kid.  There are some beautiful beaches along the coastline too.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

U.S. Naturalization Laws - Oh How They Change!

Every one has that immigrant ancestor who came to America looking for a new life full of freedom and opportunity. It's thrilling to find this ancestor, because they give you a new appreciation for the struggle that they endured just to come to this country.

But figuring out the U.S. Naturalization laws for the time period your ancestor lived - not much fun at all. But it is critical that we know these laws so that we can find the records that go with our ancestor becoming a U.S. citizen.

With my great-great-grandfather, I was fortunate enough to find an index on the Missouri Digital Heritage Website, which gave me all the information I needed to order the record. And the great part? It only cost me $1. But without knowing the naturalization laws, I would have been much more lost.

I found a great reference article about the U.S. naturalization laws that can be found here. I highly recommend that you print it and keep it in an easy to reach place (You can also download the document).

Using these laws, you can figure out if there is a naturalization record to be found and exactly what kind of records you are looking for.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Harney or O'Harney? That is the Question...

So a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my Auntie Shirley about genealogy.  We began talking about her dad's line of genealogy, which I always thought was a German line.  However, Auntie Shirley gave me a new insight.

According to Auntie Shirley, her father's line is actually Irish.  During the potato famine, the family moved to Germany and tried to assimilate with their new country.  They began speaking German and living the German lifestyle.  By the time they immigrated to America, they considered themselves German.

I've never heard of the Irish moving to Germany during the Potato Famine, but it could certainly be a possibility.  I haven't done much research on this line once they are in Germany, so I don't know if this story is true or not.

Now I have an entirely new angle to persue - and I am certainly excited at the possibilities.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Controversy Over Sources In Blogs

I tried to resist jumping on the bandwagon - but I couldn't.

99% of the time, I will probably not cite my sources. Why? Because it is a blog, and I don't believe a blog is a source: It is a starting place, a place to pick up tips and helpful websites and a place for a general discussion to happen (or at least it is for my blog!)

And I'm not offended by the idea of my blog not being a good source. I would hope that if anyone found information that was helpful on my blog or that might relate to their genealogy, that they would contact me in some way (easiest way is through email: If not, then I can't stop them. Some people will make mistakes and choose not to do what you want - you can't spend your time stressing.

So once again - if anyone wants a source for one of my posts, simply email me and I'd be happy to provide it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Auntie Shirley

As I said in my last post, my family has been going through a bit of a chaotic time.  My Auntie Shirley is very sick and has a hospice with her.  Everyone has been visiting her and giving her phone calls.  Despite the sad days that have been happening, she is in great spirits.

As soon as I get on the phone with her, the first thing she says is a joke.  My Auntie Shirley is full of jokes:
-"Why was the little strawberry crying?"
-"I don't know, why?"
-"Because his parents got caught up in a jam!"

Despite the fact that her jokes are rather corny, we laugh anyway.

Then we continue talking about nearly anything.  I ask her about what it has been like to be a single woman her whole life, even through the 1940s and 1950s.
-"To be honest, it was wonderful!  I wasn't like some of my sisters who tied themselves down and started a family early.  I have been free to be exactly who I am.  It wasn't that I didn't want to get married, it is just that I never found the right person and that is okay with me.  It got lonely at times, but look at all the things I was able to do!  I've spent so much time volunteering, which has given me a chance to meet people I never would have met.  I got to dance with Clint Eastwood, who is an amazing dancer and such a gentleman!  I'm truly blessed with such wonderful people in my life, so a husband was never really needed."

We then talked about Octomom...
-"I never thought I'd see the day when a woman could carry eight children!  It is unreal!  I find it very sad that she can't take care of her children, but she has had these children so it is time for society to step up and help her.  It takes a village to raise a we all better get to work!"

What she has learned in life...
"Do what you love and love what you do.  Life is too short to spend it doing things that you don't enjoy.  You love your genealogy, so stick with it for as long as you love it.  Once you have found your passion, you have to stick with it for as long as it makes you happy.
And help people.  Helping people will make you happy.  It gives you perspective and teaches you about yourself.  I learned so much about who I was and what my country meant to me when I volunteered for the USO and drew pictures of the soldiers.  Seeing the looks on their families faces was all the motivation and payment I needed.  And helping people doesn't have to be something big, it just has to be something."

She is such a wonderful woman and has given me so many priceless memories.  She is bright, funny, and such a giving person.  She is brave and kind.  Everyone is blessed to have her in our lives!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Saying Goodbye

My Great Auntie Shirley has been very sick for a long time, and in the last week or so she was moved back to her home with hospice nurses.  They have been giving her medication and trying to keep her comfortable.  They've been wonderful.

Today, my mom and I called her to pay our respects.  She is in high spirits and very positive, but also a little scared.  Her voice is coarse and she has been telling me about all the wonderful people who have been calling her.

My mom was the one who asked her about her favorite memory, and she was quick to talk about all the wonderful people she has danced with, from Clint Eastwood to Sailors that she met in clubs during WWII, she has danced with many a person.  When asked about her favorite style of dance she said "Anything Latin".

All in all it was a wonderful conversation, despite the sad truth that this would probably be the last time we would ever speak to her.  I thanked her for the Christmas cards that I had that she had made for family members every year before she lost her sight and for the copies of family papers that she has given me over the last few years.  She thanked me for being a breath of fresh air while I was in Washington as a child, because I was the first child in the family for many years.

My Auntie Shirley is a wonderful woman and it was a good conversation.  I couldn't imagine saying goodbye to her in any other way.