Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday's Tips: Norwegian Research Aids Coming to My Rescue


Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue
photo by Torvol at Norwegian (bokmål) Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons


As I continue knee-deep in the Norwegian Parish Registers, I've added two more "must haves" to my research toolbox.  Both have proved to be real lifesavers as I research my ancestors.

source: Family Tree Magazine

Because these parish records are written in Norwegian and in a variety of handwritings, the Germanic Alphabet Chart from Family Tree Magazine has proved so helpful in deciphering those written records.  The Fraktur style of writing is used in the printed column headings of a number of 19th century records while the old handwriting styles section of the chart helps in distinguishing between letters that strongly resemble each other.  I probably need to laminate my chart because it is already showing wear from being used so much.

Must have # two is a resource that stays open on my laptop whenever I am researching records from the Digital Archives of Norway.  This time Family Search has come to my rescue with its Calendar for Moveable Feast Days.  The Parish Registers are church documents, written by the minister or church clerk and frequently have a reference to a specific event of the liturgical year as the date for baptisms, marriages, or burials.  Before I stumbled upon this resources, I spent time googling to find the date for Trinity Sunday in 1803 then locating a calendar to determine the 7th Sunday past Trinity in that year.  Now I just select the year, ex. 1803, and scan down to find that the 7th Sunday past Trinity was 24 July 1803, easily read in English.  There are similar calendars available through the Family Search Wiki for other countries in addition to the calendar for Norway.

If you are researching records written in other languages, I hope that similar resources will help you, too.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Wk#5GenealogyDoOver : Dealing With All Those Bookmarks

"PostIt Notes: by EraserGirl, source:  Wikimedia.org



Thanks to Thomas MacEntee's suggestions, some months ago I created a Research Toolbox on this blog.  It contains links to which I have referred in various blog posts as well as web sites I use on a regular basis.  Because it is not overly long, it has been easy for me to keep it current and updated as necessary.

Not quite the same with my genealogy related bookmarked web sites on my laptop. It is particularly bothersome in my list of web sites dealing with Norway, Immigration, and Naturalization.  Focusing on researching my Norwegian ancestors while participating in the Genealogy Do-Over has lead me to bookmark a lot of new-to-me web sites.  So much so, that my bookmark folder for Norway/Immigration was overflowing.  The same was true with a number of my other bookmark folders also.  The Genealogy Do-Over seemed like a good time to get these things under control.

My first step was to put all of my bookmark folders into alphabetical order.  (After all, I am a retired school librarian and teacher.)  Using Google's Bookmark Manager, it is simply a matter of highlighting a folder and dragging it to the place it needs to be.

The next step has been to put the bookmarks within a folder into alphabetical order.  It just makes it quicker to scan and locate the web site or topic I need.  This is another area where highlighting and dragging is an easy way to alphabetize them.  It also showed where I had bookmarked several parts of the same web site, something I really did not need to do whenever a web site itself had clear navigational links.  I then deleted the duplicate links.

I also took the time to see that the name of a link was descriptive and meaningful to me.  A web site that automatically saved with the title "Projects" meant nothing to me.  Taking the time to look again at the web site gave me a better idea as to how to rename the web site so I would actually find it when I needed some specific information.

Finally, looking at the links in my folder for Norway/Immigration showed that I had over 70 web sites  bookmarked.  That's a long list to scan when I'm looking for a specific web site or topic.  It also showed me it was time to move some of the links into a new folder.  It only took a few minutes to set up an Immigration/Naturalization folder and move all the applicable links into it.  By the time I finished moving links and removing duplicates, I had 38 links in my Norway folder and 20 links in the new Immigration/Naturalization folder.  The new folder will also prove to be useful when I'm researching immigrant ancestors from any country, not just those from Norway.

Contents of my new folder on Immigration / Naturalization

The process showed me that I need to take the time to look over my bookmarks as an annual project.  It turned out to be a  great project to assist me in locating resources for my current Norwegian research.  It was also a great project to tackle as I stayed warm inside and glanced at the snow falling outside.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Working On a Family Puzzle

"Puzzle Pieces 2" by By Patafisik, via Wikimedia Commons

It was one of those events common in families.  A gathering following the death of a dear family member.  The shared remembrances of that special individual.  And questions about where certain people who were not present might be.

Recently the death of a cousin provided me a chance to use some of my genealogy research skills to help the family locate some of the missing relatives.  It turned out to be an interesting experience.  It was an opportunity to show that we can search for the living as well as the dead using similar techniques and even similar resources.

Step 1:  Begin with what you know.  Just as with researching an ancestor, I started with the available information. Fortunately, some years ago a descendant chart for this branch of the family had been found at a relative's home.  Our copy of the chart provided the full names, birth dates, names of spouses, as well as names of children.  From the ancestor's family of six children, there were also 14 grandchildren and a number of GreatGrandchildren listed on the chart.  It was a lot of specific information which helped us begin the search for the other relatives.

Family members quickly determined there were four of the grandchildren who needed to be located and notified about the death in the family.  In the interest of family privacy, I'll call the four Relative A, Relative B, Relative C, and Relative D.  There were also so vague tidbits passed along concerning the four.  Things like, "I heard he died several years ago", "I think she and her family moved out west a while back", and the expected "I haven't seen her at any family gatherings in a long time".  Before long, another family member was successful in finding a current phone number for Relative C, and our list of missing people dropped to three.

Step 2:  Formulate a specific research question or focus.  For starters, we needed to obtain a current address and/or phone number for these three family members.  It was important to determine if any of them had passed away and whether or not they had any children who needed to be notified.

Step 3:  Document all of your research.  For the sake of the estate, this could mean keeping a record of all telephone calls and correspondence, keeping printouts of information found online.  It also means maintaining a record of where I searched and was unable to find any viable information about Relatives A, B, and D.  All like citing your sources in researching distant ancestors.

My research concerning Relative A started with looking for him on both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org; nothing there.  Next I examined the online index of the city newspaper in the area where A had lived; again no information in the newspaper's archives.  It took googling A's name to stumble upon information.  I found a link to a website for a now closed high school.  In the "In Memoriam" section of the website, I found A's name listed among the deceased of the class of 195x.  A's name was not a common name and his birth date indicated that he probably would have graduated in the class of  '5x.  Included in the Memoriam section was a touching remembrance written by a classmate relating how he and A had kept in touch until going into the Army and ending with condolences to A's sisters (Relatives B and C).  This pointed to solid information that A had passed away.

A visit to the Veterans Administration website confirmed A's death.  Using the VA's gravesite locator , I found the entry for A which included his birth date, death of death, and grave location.  Additional information on the VA site confirmed that we had located the correct individual.  A look on findagrave.com provided the address of the cemetery, telephone number for the cemetery office, and even the GPS coordinates for A's grave marker.  All of this provided a good start on the information which was needed concerning A.  That left a search for A's widow to determine if there were any living children as none had been recorded on the family tree chart in our possession nor was there any mention of children on the findagrave memorial page.

In looking for Relatives B and D, in additional to checking on Ancestry and FamilySearch, I checked to see if either were active users of social media, specifically Facebook and LinkedIn.  Neither seemed to be on Facebook but there was someone with B's name on LinkedIn who lived in California.  I definitely needed more specific information.  We opted for a trial subscription to one of those many people locator websites.  Through PeopleFinders.com, we located information about B by searching for her name and that of her husband.  After finding the same partial address for B and for her husband, it was worth spending a dollar to get B's complete address and telephone number.  Another partial check off the list as there was now to way to hopefully contact Relative B.

A took a little longer to find information concerning D.  Again nothing on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Facebook, or LinkedIn.  Once again googling helped me out.  When I googled D's name + maiden name + married name, I was surprised to find an interesting link to a newspaper article.  From the newspaper article I learned that D had remarried and now had a new married name.  Again, we knew this was about our Relative D because of the town where the wedding was held and a wonderful tidbit concerning how "coffee and cake were served at the home of the bride's mother, Mrs. xxxxx".  Now there was a different name for which to search.  And now the search continues for D with her new name.

A special thanks goes to the National Genealogy Society for featuring an informative infographic Finding People on their blog UpFront With UGS.  The blog post also references other articles worth reading, all on the subject of locating living people.

As with any type of family research, it is never completed in one session.  Each bit of solid information forms another part of our reasonably exhaustive search.  Like the answer to the old riddle, you just eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Lessons Learned
  • Start with what you know, in this case names from a branch of the family tree written down some 30+ years ago.
  • Use a variety of points to establish that the information located is actually about the individual for whom you are searching - name, location, spouse, children, age.
  • Draw from a variety of resources in your research - genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, social media sites, newspapers, online people locators, and just plain googling a name when all else fails.  If you draw a blank with one resource, look using another.
  • It is important to document all the places you search for information.  It is worth noting when you find nothing as well as when you find an answer to that question.
  • Take a break.  As interesting or important as a research quest may be, a rest, a break can help you approach the matter with a new perspective or new strategies to follow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wk#4GenealogyDoOver : Getting From Here to There With My Research

Red River Gorge Rock Wall by By Jarek Tuszynski via Wikimedia Commons

Participating in the Genealogy Do-Over had made me so much more aware of my research strategies.  I've written previously about I've started being more methodical in tracking my research.  Now, as I continue to plow through digitized church records from Norway, I'm seeing that I'm following a path as I look for information about my ancestors.

My 2GreatGrandmother Marit Oldsdatter, according to the family history booklet I have, was born 26 Jan 1810 and died 23 Dec 1890.  Here are the steps I've followed to learn the names of her parents, siblings, and grandparents, steps I'm now using as I research other ancestors.  


  1. Using records on the Digital Archives of Norway, l found the parish record of Marit's birth.  The great thing about these records is that they (usually) provide the birth date, baptism date, names of parents, farm residence of father and mother, and names of witnesses to the baptism, usually other family members.
  2. After finding Marit's birth / baptism record, I knew her parents were Ole Jacobsen and Ronnoug Bjornersdatter.  Next I searched in FamilySearch.org's Norwegian records for any children born to these two parents.  This provided me with the names and birth dates of Marit's siblings, Jacob, Bjorner, Mary, Hans, Anna, and another Marit/Mari.
  3. Time to go back to the Digital Archives of Norway to find the digitized record for the birth / baptism of each of the siblings.  There is no substitute for being able to study the original record.  Having been a volunteer transcriber, I know that any transcription stands the chance of having an error recorded.  Seeing the actual record myself provides a second set of eyes on the document.
  4. Once I knew the birth order of the children, I started looking for the marriage record for Marit's parents.  Again, the original marriage record provides a lot of additional information.  Depending upon the year, the Norwegian marriage records can contain the marriage date, names and ages of the bride and groom, their farm residences, names of their fathers, names of bondsmen (who just might be other relatives), and possibly information about a previous marriage of either party.  Stuff that is definitely worth looking for.  Admittedly, finding the marriage record requires some speculation on my part.  My standard search plan is to look in the parish marriage records for 0-5 years prior to the birth of the couples' eldest child.  In the case of Marit, the oldest child, born in 1810, I found the record for her parents' marriage in the 1809 parish marriage records.
  5. After the marriage information of Marit's parents was located and recorded, I then started to look for the family in a census record.   Records for the 1801, 1865, and 1875 censuses are searchable through the Digital Archives of Norway.  If I've fortunate enough to find the family listed in one of these census records, I also can see, just as with US census records, who is living in the household, their ages, marital status, and occupation as well as basic information concerning their residence or farm.  In my search of the 1801 census I found Marit's father Ole Jacobsen, age 19, living with his parents and siblings on the family farm.  Marit's mother, Ronnoug Bjornersdatter, age 16, was living on a nearby farm working as a servant girl.
  6. Finding the family in a census record also provides an approximate birth date for any family members listed.  I loop back to Step 3 and search in a three year period for previously missing Birth / Baptism records.  This means searching the parish records for 1786-1788 for a Birth / Baptism record of a child listed as being age 14 in the 1801 census.  And this works just about every time.
  7. Death / Burial records are the last part of my current search strategy.  Finding them turns out to be much more of a "needle in a haystack" approach.  I start by searching the death records following the latest information I have for an individual, i.e. date of marriage, birth of last child, census record.  This "new" information becomes my starting point.  The first few times I tried this, I kept wondering WHY am I looking at so many records and how will I know it is the right record.  Bless those Lutheran clerics who recorded the farm residence so often along with the first name and surname of an ancestor.  If I can decipher the cleric's handwriting, I can then use Google Translate to determine the cause of death.  Once I found the death / burial record, I was also provided with the age at the time of death, enabling me to loop back to look for their birth / baptism record.    And so my plan continues.
As I watched pictures of the recent scaling of Yosemite National Park's Dawn Wall, I marveled at how much planning went into each inch of elevation gained by the two climbers.  I saw times when they had to drop back and try another route.  

The steps above are my planned route for researching my Norwegian ancestors.  Sometimes I get to where I want to be in a short time.  Other times I have to drop back and try something else, expand the years I search, head over to FamilySearch.org or check out any shaky leaves on Ancestry to see if there are hints I can follow up on or try to verify.  It is all part of getting from here to there.  It is also worth the effort.

Now, time to apply these steps to learning more about my three other 2GreatGrandparents from Norway.