Blog » Amy Johnson Crow The official blog of Wed, 01 Oct 2014 22:42:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What We Are Reading: September 26th Edition Fri, 26 Sep 2014 15:48:04 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> ebook-and-booksFall is officially here! (For those of you in the southern hemisphere: Spring is officially here!) Cooler temperatures and shorter days make it a great time to curl up with some good reading. Oh, who am I kidding – it’s always a great time for reading!

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading this week:

Coffee in the Civil War,” by Ashley Webb, on Emerging Civil War. Think your morning cup of coffee is important? Read what it meant to Civil War soldiers.

Disease in the Civil War,” by Family Sleuther, on Family Sleuther. Civil War pension files can contain a wealth of information, including about the diseases that the men contracted while in the service.

How and When Did World War II Officially Become World War II?” by Dr. Greg Bradsher, on The Text Message. Spoiler: It wasn’t when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Sentimental Sunday: Roaring Twenties Graduation Photo,” by Marian Burk Wood, on Climbing My Family Tree. The photo of Marian’s grandmother is one of the neatest graduations photos I’ve seen in a long time.

6 Things Every Writer Needs,” by Mom (Kassie Ritman), on Maybe Someone Should Write That Down. Though not specific to genealogy, all of us can pick up some tips for writing about our ancestors.

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What We Are Reading: September 19th Edition Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:39:52 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Migrating ancestors, deciphering legalese, and an usual death involving a cow. It’s just some of what we were reading this week.

Ancestors on the Move,” by B. Rogers, on When I Was 69. B. considers the reasons that our ancestors moved.

Extracting Data From a Biographical Sketch – Part 1,” by Wendy Littrell, on All My Branches Genealogy. Wendy gives some practical advice on how to keep track of who is whom when you’re reading those long and flowery biographies in old county histories.

Genealogy Tip: Trouble Transcribing? Google the Legal Boilerplate,” by Tim Graham, on Photo Restorations By Tim G. Do you have a hard-to-read document with standard legal wording on it? Help yourself by using Google (or whatever your favorite search engine is) to find what the boilerplate says. The personal names, of course, are up to you to figure out!

Humphrey Atherson’s Quaker Curse?” by Pam Carter, on My Maine Ancestry. Was Humphrey Atherson’s unusual death divine retribution for his persecution of Quakers?

Unusual Regional Words,” by Kirsty Gray, on Family Wise Ltd. Not only are some phrases unusual, but they may also be specific to one region.

"Working Girls of all Nationalities Making the Best of the Spare Evening Hours. Boston 1915 Exhibit. Location: Boston, Massachusetts." Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

“Working Girls of all Nationalities Making the Best of the Spare Evening Hours. Boston 1915 Exhibit. Location: Boston, Massachusetts.” Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

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Talk Like a Pirate and Improve Your Research Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:25:07 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> pirate-ship-flagIt’s Talk Like a Pirate Day – that day when people get in touch with their inner pirate and pepper their sentences with words like “Arrrrrr,” “avast,” and “bilge rat.” (It’s a good day when you can work “bilge rat” into friendly conversation.) Facebook even has a language setting for “English (Pirate).” Don’t want to go that far? Maybe a basic tutorial on key phrases will get you through the day.

For all of the silliness that is Talk Like a Pirate Day (TLAPD), there is something about it that can help us with our genealogy. No, it’s not some newly-uncovered pirate manifest. It’s how we talk. Part of the fun on TLAPD is talking outside our normal way.  What if we did that with the names that we’re researching?

We tend to have a way of “hearing” words when we read them. But what if how we hear that word or that surname isn’t how our ancestors pronounced it – or how someone else heard it?

One of the surnames I research is Daubenmeyer. It’s easy to pick out a few variant spellings – Daubenmeier, Dobenmeyer, Daubenmyer, etc. But what if we pronounce it like they might have, with a strong German accent? We could easily lose the second syllable – and it becomes Daubmeyer. That D at the beginning? It sounds a lot like a T; suddenly you have Taubmeyer. I have seen these variations as well.

Place names are also something that you should play around with. There’s a town in Ohio named “Piqua.” When you read that word, did you “hear” it with a short “A” (pick-wah) or with a long “A” (pick-way)? Although we pronounce it with a short A today, it started out with a long “A.” That might not seem like a big deal until you find a record that says your family was living in “Pickway, Ohio.” Is that a misspelling of the town of Piqua (in northwest Ohio) or the county of Pickaway, which is in the south-central part of the state? You could be putting them in the wrong place if you don’t consider how pronunciation can cause these variant spellings.

So let’s celebrate TLAPD not by greeting everyone with “Ahoy!” or drinking grog. (Who really wants to drink grog, anyway?) Instead, let’s celebrate by playing with our words and seeing what new words or new spellings we can come up with. It might help you consider names and places you hadn’t thought of before.



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Happy Birthday to Lots of You! Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:19:01 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Happy birthday! If your birthday is September 16, chances are you know someone else with the same birthday as you. It is the most common birthday in the United States for those born between 1973 and 1999. (If you’re a visual data/infographic geek like I am, check out the heat map that Andy Kriebel put together based on data by the New York Times.)

Not only is September 16 the most common birthday, but September has the top 11 most common birthdays. (In order, September 16, 9, 23, 17, 22, 24, 21, 15, 10, 18, and 25.) So why the popularity in September birthdays? One theory: the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. (I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why that might play into it.)

My dad and my niece just missed sharing a birthday, but the occasionally share their cake.

My dad and my niece just missed sharing a birthday, but they occasionally share their cake.

This got me thinking about the clusters of birthdays in my family. My dad and my aunt (Dad’s sister) share the same birthday – September 9. No, they’re not twins; they were born three years apart. (And they have a brother between them!) My niece missed their birthday by just 10 hours. Two pairs of my first cousins share birthdays (two on August 21 and two September 6). My son and my oldest sister have the same birthday. In a weird twist, my daughter was born on my brother-in-law’s birthday.  (I hope my other sister and brother-in-law don’t feel left out.)

Expanding the family a little bit and there are a ton of November birthdays in my family. (Let’s hear it for us Scorpios!) Once, my grandma mused aloud, “I wonder why there are so many November birthdays.” My dad, ever the quick one, replied, “Because February is a darn cold month.” Grandma was rather scandalized by that observation.

How about you? What clusters of birthdays exist in your family?

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What We Are Reading: September 12th Edition Fri, 12 Sep 2014 18:26:57 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Sometimes what we read in a week follows a theme. There are those weeks when everyone seems to be writing about the same thing — or maybe subconsciously we’re just noticing the same subjects. That definitely wasn’t the case this week! In the past few days, everything from ancestors who were former slaves to non-paternity events to unusual libraries caught our eye. We hope you enjoy this eclectic mix!

Bristow Harris or Was It Bristoe, Brister or Bristol?” by Andrea Kelleher, on How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey. No matter his first name, Andrea is proud of her 3rd great-grandfather who was a former slave. She used city directories to recreate his later life.

Can We Stop Calling Grandma a Whore?” by Kerry Scott, on Clue Wagon. Kerry reminds us that when it comes to non-paternity events in our tree, we usually won’t know the “why” of what happened.

Handwritten Bird’s Means So Much More,” by Simon Bird, on The Branches of My Tree. We treasure those records that our ancestors wrote. What are we leaving for our descendants?

The Many Lives of an Old Railroad Car,” by Laurie Thompson, on Anne T. Kent California Room Community Newsletter (Marin County Free Library). We’ve heard of bookmobiles, but a library branch in a railroad car? This was a new one for us!

A Soldier Boy’s Creed,” by Schalene Dagutis, on Tangled Roots and Trees. Schalene’s tribute to Julius Franklin Collins who died in World War I is not only beautiful, it also serves as a reminder that newspapers have so much more than obituaries.

photo of brothers reading a book-fifties


What are you reading this week? Share in the comments below for others to enjoy as well.


Previous “What We Are Reading” posts: 




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What We Are Reading: September 5 Edition Fri, 05 Sep 2014 21:03:22 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Student Holding Old BooksThere were several lessons to be learned at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference last week. Among them: Write it down! Whether it’s writing about why you think that particular person is your third-great-grandfather or writing a timeline to organize your research, writing is crucial to everything we do in family history. It helps us in our research – and it also makes for good reading for others!

Here’s what we’ve been reading this week:

The 200th Birthday of Sir George-Étienne Cartier, a Prominent Father of Confederation” on Library and Archives Canada Blog. Informative article about Cartier and his role in Canadian confederation.

Cemeteries Share Tales of Lafayette’s Rich History,” by Kathy Matter, on Lafayette Journal & Courier. Mark Griffin has studied the cemeteries of Tippecanoe County, Indiana and shares some of the things those cemeteries can teach about local history.

Family Reunion Book Awesomeness” on thegenealogygirl. She shares how she put together a small book for her family reunion. The result? Big hit! Could be a good idea for the upcoming holiday season.

In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution,” by Lorine McGinnis Schulze, on Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. Lorine shows how learning more about the source itself can help you get more out of a record and even break down a brick wall.

Labor Day in Photos,” by Wendy Littrell, on All My Branches. Have you thought about the occupations your ancestors had?

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Preserve the Pensions: An Update from FGS 2014 Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:30:55 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Imagine the paperwork that your ancestor had to submit in order to receive a War of 1812 pension. That paperwork is filled with all sorts of information – things like names, dates, relationships, residences, and military service. Now imagine all of that valuable paperwork deteriorating, without being digitized. That’s what has been happening with the War of 1812 pension files.

The Preserve the Pensions project is working to change that. Not only is Preserve the Pensions working to digitize the 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 pension files, but is also making them available – for free! – on Fold3. Yes, you read that right. These valuable records are being made available for free to everyone.

Last week at the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference, I caught up with Rorey Cathcart, who is on the Preserve the Pensions committee. Rorey shared with us some background about the project, an event that raised more than $80,000, and how you can help.

(Spoiler alert!) All donations are matched by A $45 donation will digitize 200 images! You can make your donation go even farther by donating through the Indiana Genealogical Society or the Illinois State Genealogical Society, both of which are having matching grants of their own, which is then matched again by Ancestry.

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What We Are Reading: August 29th Edition Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:18:51 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> This week is the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ (FGS) annual conference, being held this year in San Antonio, Texas. But don’t think that this event has kept us from finding and reading some wonderful genealogy articles! If you’re at the FGS conference, you might want to bookmark these and read them between sessions. They also make that airport layover a lot more pleasant.Book

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading this week:

Digging Deeper to Find More,” by Nancy on My Ancestors and Me. Nancy shows how learning more about a collection helps you better evaluate the records you find.

Military Monday: Smedley Brothers in the Civil War,” by ScotSue (Susan Donaldson), on Family History Fun. Susan tells the story of brothers John and Isaac Smedley with a variety of record types.

Rosa Henn Strauss (May 3, 1836 – August 31, 1908) – Adjudged Insane,” by Jo Henn, on Climbing My Family Tree. Jo reveals the story of her ancestor’s battle with mental health issues, including methods of “curing” mental illness in the 19th century.

Tombstone Tuesday – Susan Amanda Price Bent,” by Amanda, on Miss E and Me. Amanda tells about the adventure that she and her dad had while looking for a small family cemetery.

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Spotlight: Texas State Genealogical Society Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:06:02 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> texas-state-genealogical-societyThey say things are bigger in Texas. The Texas State Genealogical Society certainly lives up to that. They are one of the local hosts for the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ annual conference, being held this week in San Antonio. Recently, I spoke with TSGS president John Wylie and learned what makes the society so strong.

TSGS has numerous programs, including five different heritage certificates (First Families, Gone to Texas, West Texas Pioneers, Descendants of Texas Rangers, and Descendants of Greer County, Texas). They also have a robust publishing program, several writing awards, and a grant program.

However, people shouldn’t think of TSGS as a big local society. Not only can individuals join, it is also an “umbrella organization,” serving more than 130 local societies across Texas. TSGS has grown from a few dozen “very active” people, into “an alliance of local societies, all working for the same goals of education, preservation, access and developing leadership skills,” according to John.

Those volunteers working together for common goals have benefited the entire genealogical community in Texas. They have worked together in support of  bills in the Texas legislature in 2013; all of them passed. There was a bill that the organization opposed. It died in committee. As John told me, “Everyone with Texas ancestors will benefit from that quiet effort.”

A spirit of embracing change and growth is at the heart of TSGS. If you would have asked John six years ago what the strengths of the society’s team were, he would have said their offerings of genealogical presentations and the books they published. Now, TSGS is a society with a strong social media presence (including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) and has embraced technology. Use of that technology has lead to discussing metrics and using tools such as Google Analytics to measure the success of their efforts. John added, “While we’re not forgetting the people who made TSGS what it was, we’re focused on those who will make it what it is intended to be.”

As you might expect, TSGS is not content to rest on its laurels. “After we finish co-hosting the FGS conference, we won’t stop to take a breath until we’ve hired our new quarterly editor and are back to our publication schedule.” I suspect that they won’t stop to take a breath even after that.

Texas State Genealogical Society at a Glance:


Address: P.O. Box 7308; Tyler, Texas 75711-7308

Membership Information: Membership is open to any person or organization that is interested in researching and preserving genealogical and historical records. Personal memberships are available for individuals or families. Genealogy societies, historical societies, and family associations are considered Partner Societies. Dues as of 2014 are $25.00 per year.

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What We Are Reading: August 22 Edition Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:28:37 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> As summer winds down, many of us find many things still on our “to do” list. I wanted to redo my flowerbeds and do some landscaping in my backyard. Maybe this fall… But one thing that I’m happy to keep on my “to do” list is “Read more genealogy.” It has a permanent place on the list because no matter how much I read, there’s always more to explore – and I’m fine with that!

Here’s what we’ve been reading this week:

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Blind Memorandum,’” by Michelle Krowl, on Library of Congress Blog. It’s easy to look back on history and see some things as inevitable. We might see Lincoln’s re-election in 1864 as inevitable, but he didn’t. Read Lincoln’s own views on what he would do if he lost.

John Joseph McBride: A Victim of Proofreading,” by Sally Knudsen, on SallySearches. Sally shows why you should look for as many records as possible. A simple typo in an obituary could have derailed her research.

Samuel Stillman Glover Ex-communicated and the Reason Shocked Me,” by Brenda (Glover) Leyndyke, on Journey to the Past. Brenda shows how digging deeper into church records gave her an up-close insight into the life of her ancestor.

A Society on the Grow,” by Jenny Lancot, on the Federation of Genealogical Society Voice. You might have heard that some genealogical societies are struggling. Learn how one society is re-invigorating itself.

World War I Letter From a Soldier to His Sweetheart,” by Colleen G. Brown Pasquale, on Leaves & Branches. Colleen’s grandmother carefully kept a love letter from a soldier who was fighting in WWI. It’s a beautiful letter — and wasn’t written by Colleen’s grandfather…


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