thegenealogygirl


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Photograph Showcase: Adorable Grandmother

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I recently found this beautiful 8×10 photo of my grandmother in pristine condition, in a picture frame, in a stack of picture frames, in the closet of a guest room in my parent’s home.  With my mother’s permission, I rescued the dusty frame from the pile.

This adorable little girl was the only child at the time this photo was taken.  She was 22 months old.  The photo was taken at The Twitter Studio in Great Falls, Montana.  The photo was later hand-painted with oil paints.  Because there is evidence that the photograph was removed and returned to the frame – the paper backing is torn and taped back together with very old cellophane tape with the studio sticker still on the paper backing – I believe that it was hand-painted by my great grandmother Hope Estelle Maffit.

I love her little dress, socks, and shoes.  I also love that her hair isn’t overly styled.  It looks like her mother just worked with her natural curls.  I wonder if the stuffed dog belonged to my grandmother or if it was a toy in the studio used to help children hold still?

I’m so delighted that my mother was willing to let me rescue and scan this photo while it was still in such perfect condition.  A treasure for sure!


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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Part Two

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Durban to The Drakensberg” by John Hone, 1988, photo of Durban, Natal, South Africa

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He is the younger brother of my 3rd great grandmother Catherine Boles.  John, his wife Christina, and his 7 living children who were all born in Scotland, just up and disappeared in 1890.

In 2014, a serendipitous connection with a kind stranger from Scotland, led me to an immigration record for all 7 Boles children traveling to Natal, South Africa without their parents.

Then there were the 3 marriage records for Elizabeth, Christina, & Helen Boles.  All 3 marriages took place in Natal, South Africa.  Helen’s 1906 marriage record stated that she had the permission of her parents to marry.

This was the first clue that indicated John & Christina Montgomery Boles might have also gone to South Africa.

I scoured FamilySearch and Ancestry looking for any record collection that might help me build on what I knew but I couldn’t find anything.  The collections were sparse and had very limited time frames.  I did some basic googling with no great results so I did what we all do at times, I set the John & Christina Boles family aside.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I revisited this part of my tree.  I was committed to adding something to this story.  So I dove into some google searching to see what record collections exist for Natal, South Africa.  The National Archives for South Africa led me to a bunch of potentially helpful records.  The only problem was that they look like this:

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I wasn’t entirely sure where I could go next based on this data.  So I went to my good friend, the FamilySearch wiki.  But.  I went to it through google.  The wiki itself has a terrible search algorithm so it’s best to use google as your entry point.  I found myself on a page entitled “South Africa Natal Death Notices“.

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Close to the bottom of that screenshot you can see the section “Microfilmed records at the Family History Library”.  This link takes you to a catalog entry on FamilySearch.org for microfilms containing Estate Files for Pietermartizburg (Natal).  The collection includes 419 microfilm reels organized by year and file number.

This discovery got me pretty excited so I searched the National Archives of SA website as thoroughly as I could to identify as many potential estate files for John, Christina, their children, and the 3 sons-in-law that I knew of.  I had quite a list.  I compared it to the FS Catalog entry to identify microfilm numbers.  My list of microfilms was growing.

My big question was this – What exactly will I find in those Estate Files?

 

When I go to BYU for research, I can order two microfilms from the FHL in Salt Lake City for free, every two weeks.  No more.  I was trying to decide how much of my precious research time to dedicate to this family.  Which films should I order?

While pondering on this set of questions, I discovered that there is a 5 year window of estate records available on FamilySearch in a browse only collection for Transvaal.  I checked this against my list and discovered one candidate: William Wise, husband of Christina Boles.

Hooray!  This meant I could view an estate file from home to get a sense of what this record type, for this location might tell me.  This was just what I wanted.

Because finding this particular record took several steps, I will outline those steps in detail.

The first step was finding William’s file number on the National Archives of SA website.

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I was looking for file number 3681 in the year 1959.

It was time to take that information over to FamilySearch.  I went to the main “Search” menu on FamilySearch and got myself to the South Africa landing page that looks like this.

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Then I scrolled down to the bottom to find the browse collections.  These are collections that only have images with no index.  You search them like a digital microfilm.

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Then I selected the Transvaal Estate Files.

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From here, I clicked on “Browse through 191,580 images“.

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Then I selected the appropriate year of 1959.

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That led me to a screen filled with file number ranges.  My file number was further down the page so I scrolled down.

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I am looking for file number 3681 which falls into the very last number range of 3660-3736.  I clicked that range.

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Now I am essentially looking at digital microfilm.  You can see that first image has a large stamped code of “3660/59”.  I am looking for 3681 which is only 21 files later.  I left this page on the “thumbnail” view and scrolled down until I could see the first page of file 3681.

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There is my file on the third row, far left.  I can now click on the thumbnail to view the first image of my file.  Then I click the little arrow in the black menu bar to arrow through the file.  What I discovered was a 5 page estate file.  Page one is the cover sheet.  Page two is the death notice.  Pages three and four are William and Christina’s will.  Page five is “Acceptance as Trust of Executor”.

Just to give you a little taste, here is the death notice for William.

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From this record I learned so much new information!  I added a birthplace in Scotland of Trenent, age at death in years and months (which helped me narrow down a time frame for birth), address at time of death, date and place of death, and the names of William and Christina’s 3 children (including their daughter’s married last name).

Finding this file got me really excited to see John and Christina’s Estate Files.  I moved those microfilm right to the top of my BYU list.  On my next visit I ordered both microfilm and hoped for the best!

Was I finally going to learn when and why John Boles went to South Africa?

 

…to be continued…


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Jerry, the Super-hero Indexer

gg, i heart indexers

In February of 2014 I wrote several posts all about indexing.  I even issued an indexing challenge.

Indexing is a vital part of the amazing increase in accessible genealogical records.  We ALL benefit from indexers.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for indexers and their service.  But that soft spot grew to bursting this past November when I read an article about a man who had made it his goal to index 1 million records before he died.

Yep, you read that correctly, ONE MILLION records.

He didn’t quite make it.

His name was Jerry.  Jerry indexed 952,891 records before his death on 6 November 2016.

952,891 records!!!

 

Jerry’s family members are planning to index the remaining 47,109 records in his memory.

Well.

After reading that, my indexer-loving-genealogy-obsessed heart just couldn’t take the amazingness of Jerry’s service without rededicating itself to more indexing.  I didn’t start out with any particular goal in mind, I just decided to index when it worked.

I am guessing that anyone who was conscious at the time, will remember the American turmoil that was going on the 6th of November 2016 and that still continues.  Because of all of that, I was watching the news A LOT more than usual, and still do.  Do you know what you can easily do while watching the news?  Index.

In November and December I indexed about 3,500 records.

When I looked at my stats recently I decided to set a goal for 2017 to index 6,000 records.  I know it’s a far cry from a million, but it’s SO MANY MORE RECORDS than I usually index.

As a genealogist who relies on indexers, I express my deepest thanks to Jerry.  Thanks for his service and for his example and how it has inspired me.

Thank you Jerry!

 

Do you index?  If you want to join the party you can index for many different organizations.  Find one you like and pitch in.  Every little bit helps.

 

You can read more about Jerry here.

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PS – This post is not meant to make any sort of political statement or imply anything about my own political leanings.  I love people SO much more than politics.  Vote however you feel comfortable, worry about the state of our nation however you choose, I love you for you, not for your voting preferences.  🙂


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RootsTech Videos & A Question

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If you missed RootsTech, you can still soak up some RootsTech goodness!  Below are links to the recorded sessions available on the RootsTech website.  I’m so sad to say that the LeVar Burton session isn’t included.  It was excellent.  Here is a brief recap article.

I am also delighted to say that they still have the 2016 RootsTech videos available.  They don’t normally do that so I’m not sure how long they will be there.  There are several that are worth watching.

And now for my question…

I purchased a few DNA kits while at RootsTech, a few from ancestry and a few from FamilyTreeDNA.  For those of you who have purchased an ancestry DNA kit for a family member, did you activate the kit before you gave it to them?  Is that the only way I am the steward of the account?  That seems logical to me but I’m hoping for a little input from those of you with experience.

 

Happy Wednesday, I hope you make a delightful genealogy discovery today!


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Hello Friends!

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RootsTech was fabulous!

I have so much to say about so many things.  I’ll just start with a few headlines:

  • RootsTech.  Love, love, loved that experience once again.  So much learning!  If you didn’t watch LeVar Burton’s opening session, it is a must see.
  • My missionary son has been gone for 6 months on Friday.  It’s going so fast!  A few photos below.
  • A while back I wrote about a new church responsibility that was keeping me busy.  Well, it happened again.  Only this time I am serving in a busy calling with many, many children – my favorite.  The timing slowed me way down, about 7 weeks before my missionary left.  But I’ve got my sea legs and I’m trying to fit in some old loves once again – like blogging.
  • I have been organizing those piles of letters getting ready to start scanning.  Hooray!
  • I am about to foray into the DNA genealogy world.  I have several people I will be testing over the next few months.  Kits purchased, now it’s time to learn.  Please send any beginner tips you have my way.
  • I may not have been writing about family history, but I’ve still been doing plenty of it.  Which means I have many happy discoveries and tips to share.

 

Have a wonderful week, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!

 


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Piles and Piles of Letters – JOY!

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Just a small portion of the letters.

In early December I was given all of the boxes of photos, journals, albums, letters, and memorabilia that had been kept by my Grandmother.  It was a joyous day and the joy has just kept spreading itself all over my genealogy loving heart these many months.

I was given the boxes, in part, because I was looking for a handful of specific photos to complete my family Christmas gift.  I was in a hurry and quickly went through every single box gathering what I needed.  It was almost painful to be in such a hurry.  There were soooooooo many unbelievable treasures in those boxes and I wasn’t able to soak much in.  I had a deadline.  As I was digging I found a shoe-box of letters.  I gave them a cursory look and thought, “Awesome, Grandma and Grandpa’s letters from WWII and their missions.  I can’t wait to go through these later.”

Well, in early Spring I pulled that box out and was devastated when I realized that it contained letters from my Grandpa’s friends and extended family.  Don’t get me wrong.  I knew they were special too.  But I know that my Grandparents wrote to each other for 5 years and that my Grandma kept all of those letters.  Where were they?

I was stressed.  I wondered if a box had gotten lost or if someone had pulled out the letters thinking they would do something with them.  I asked my uncles.  No one knew anything.  I decided before I completely panicked I needed to comb through all of the boxes again.  Much more carefully.  Just in case.

So last week I started going through the boxes again.  I found and rediscovered so many cool things.  Several boxes in, I found a binder filled with letters.  But they were from the 1960s while my Grandpa was getting his doctorate.  A cool find to be sure, and something I was hoping hadn’t been lost, but still not the letters I was searching for.

As I worked my way through every box, I got down near the end and pulled a box onto my bed and was completely baffled about the fact that it was taped shut.  What on earth?!  Somehow I had totally missed one box.  My heart started to pound.  I noticed a note on the side that said letters.  Could it be?

I opened the box and started shouting for joy!  Total and complete joy.  I was staring at 4 shoe-boxes FILLED with letters.  Plus several bundles that weren’t in shoe-boxes.  There are hundreds and hundreds of letters.

Sweet relief!

I am a bit embarrassed that the letters had been in my bedroom for a few months and all that time I had been worrying about them being lost forever.  Oh boy.

Once they were discovered, I started organizing.  It wasn’t hard because my Grandma had already bundled them by months.  I just had to get the months in order.

Next I started filing the letters in my new Hollinger boxes and folders.  I filed away until I ran out of paper folder inserts.  I need to order more.  Lots more.  It’s going to get expensive.  I wonder if my family members would want to chip in…?  I’m going to need so many before I am finished.  But I digress.

The letters cover a 5 year time period beginning when my Grandpa went off to basic training for the Marine Corps.  They follow his service in the Marine Corps and then cover the time while he was serving an LDS mission in New Zealand.  During his mission my Grandma also served a mission in California.  There is also an entire shoe-box of letters from my great-grandmother Naomi to my Grandpa.  I was so surprised and delighted by that discovery.  She left no journal, no personal history, and she died very young.  I feel like I’ve been given such a gift.

I plan to digitize the letters and share them with my family.  I may post them here, I need to ask my uncles how they feel about that.  Once everything is digitized, I will publish a book for my family members.  Well, maybe more than one.  It’s A LOT of letters and may need to be broken up.

Here are my questions:

1 – Should I include all of the letters in one collection chronologically?  Or, should I separate them and have one collection of letters between my grandparents, one collection of letters from my great-grandparents and one collection from extended family and friends?

2 – If I separate the collections for the purposes of the books I will compile, should I still share the letters online in one collection?

3 – Do you have any tips for dealing with a collection of letters this large?

 

I can’t wait to get started!  Happy Monday.

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: My Darling Grandmother

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Mary Margaret Ellis, age 10

I love everything about this sweet photograph.  The details on the dress, the cute pose, my Grandma’s ringlets, her lovely smile, the flowers in her hair, and mostly her eyes.  Those beautiful eyes that I remember so well.

A nice original print of this photo has been prominently displayed in my Uncle’s home for years.  It is housed in a beautiful oval frame and greets you as you walk into the main part of their home.  I have often considered asking to scan it but never did because oval photos are a pain to deal with.  Well, a few weeks ago I discovered this print in the many boxes I received.  It was happily still a rectangle.  I scanned it last week and have been enjoying it ever since.  Happy, happy day!!