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Seriously, I Tried

This week my husband and I spent three days at the massive genealogy library in Salt Lake City. To prepare for this trip, I had scoured the online catalog for call numbers that might relate to the Finns I am studying this year. The LDS church has not yet digitized all of its Finnish collection, so I can either order microfilm and fiche to be sent to Denver (at $5+ per roll), or I could make this trip to look at as many rolls as physically possible in three days.

Upon arrival I sat down at a microfilm reader on the international floor of the library. Yet even though I thought I had devised a suitable research plan, I felt overwhelmed as I stared at the materials I had brought along. I scarcely knew where to look first.

Finally, I decided to begin with land, court, and guardian records because I cannot get those online at home. The first rolls of film I pulled were all in Finnish or Swedish (of course, but I cannot read either language). To boot, they were not indexed. Dead end for me at this point.

In growing frustration, I looked again at the lists I had brought. Maybe I could try looking at communion books. I had no idea what information they might contain, but at least they seemed to be organized by head of family.

Looking at these call numbers, I realized the communion books are on fiche, not microfilm, and I did not know where to find them in the library. A helpful staff member finally located the appropriate spot, but she told me, “No one ever uses these.” I sat down at the fiche reader anyway. When I asked where I could make copies of anything I found, she replied that she did not think I could.

I sighed and began searching the fiche. Slowly, I deciphered how these unfamiliar records were kept. I found them extremely difficult to read, not only because of the script used. Whenever someone left the family, through marriage or death, for example, the record keeper drew a line through the name. Still, I did locate my Mattilas in the two volumes kept from the 1870’s through the 1890’s. I also found numerous entries for Myllynens, but I do not know which of these might be mine. I copied down all the families onto the legal pad I carried.

While I worked, a group touring the library came by. Their tour guide told them, “Here is the microfiche, but no one ever uses it.” Except me. Still, late in the day, another library patron sat down to look at some of the fiche. As we bemoaned having to make all hand-written notes because we could not make copies of the records, another staff member wandered by. “Oh, but you can!” he informed us. It turns out that their snazzy little microfilm-copying machines have a fiche-printing feature.

By the end of the day, I felt exhausted from this research. I did not have much to show for the hours of work except for a list of people with my Myllynen surname and a slight familiarity with a new record set. Discouraged, I gave up on the Finns for the rest of my visit. Maybe their records will be indexed someday. In the meantime, give me the good old American stuff. At least I understand how our records are kept, and I can read them.

I spent the next two days happily working on the U.S. floors of the library.

We moved and you found us!

Welcome to to the new location.  Thanks for visiting.

Back To Work

Because of some travel and family commitments, I had little time for genealogy during the past week. Now I am home and ready to resume my Finnish research.

The Mattila family arrived in America mostly in the early 1900’s, and I have been working to locate them on the U.S. census. I do not have a complete census survey yet, but I have identified four (out of a reported nine) Mattila siblings who immigrated: Ida, Anna, Olga, and Alexander. This census work has been difficult because of recording errors made by the Minnesota census takers. I have not yet found Olga on the 1910 census nor have I located Ida in 1920 or 1930. The 1940 census will be available very soon so I will need to take a look at it, too.

What is the deal with Ida? Perhaps she died early although I have not found a burial record for her in Minnesota. I cannot recall much conversation about her other than vague references to “the aunt in Biwabik”. She was married a couple of times, so I should be able to locate a marriage record for her in the United States.

In fact, there remains much American research I can do on the this family before I can even begin with Finnish records. Time to get back to work!

On This Day In History, Nothing Happened

Yesterday was Leap Day.

What interesting events might have occurred in my family on Leap Day in years past? Our online genealogy program, PHP Gedview, has an anniversary calendar feature that I can use to find out.  So I navigated to the site and pulled up the calendar for February 29. The answer is, nothing of importance to my family has ever happened on Leap Day as far as I know.

By February 29 this year, I had 2282 people listed in my family tree. Most of them have several life events documented (births, marriages, deaths, etc.), yet not one event has occurred on a Leap Day. Nobody planned such a memorable wedding date, and we have no Leap Day birthdays. Looking at my family tree, one would never know that February 29 even exists.

I am not a statistician, so I do not know the odds of events landing on a day that occurs only once every four years. I think the chances are probably small, but I really thought I would find something. On every other day of the year I usually find more than one event. Why not Leap Day?

It is now too late for 2012, so how about planning something for the next Leap Year in 2016? If someone would get married on Leap Day, we could finally fill in that space on the family anniversary calendar.

Working Solo On This One

My Dad’s family has lived in America since Colonial times. Whenever I work on one of his lines, I can find several other researchers pursuing the same family tree. I really enjoy collaborating with them, and the exchange of information moves my research along at a good pace.

I do not find this kind of help when I research my mother’s family. As I work on her Finnish line this year, I have not found another soul researching the Mattila family. No one has replied to my postings on the genealogy message boards. I cannot find family trees on Rootsweb, Ancestry, or personal websites.

It is clear that no one will be providing me with any helpful hints on my project for this year. I must be the lone wolf. So I am working along in the tried-and-true way of collecting census data for Alex Mattila and the sisters I know about. I already have a few vital records and obituaries for some of these people, and I will order more. Once I have collected all the American records that I can find, I will begin the search for Finnish ones.

I remember working alone this way in the days before the internet. I may not have research partners, but I do have internet resources that were not available before. I can do this!

Continuing Education Season Arrives

Every year from about February through May, the genealogy societies offer seminars featuring prominent genealogical speakers. These allow people like me to learn about new sources and research approaches. I could spend a lot of money to attend something like RootsTech in Salt Lake City or this year’s NGS conference in Cincinnati. But I am fortunate to live in a large metropolitan area where local societies bring in national talent. For example, this season we have Dick Eastman coming to the Computer Interest Group seminar and Hank Jones will speak to the Palatines. In lean years, I can avoid travel to a conference and still attend something nearby. Time to get signed up!

Initial Reaction to TMG 8

Recently we upgraded our genealogy software to Version 8 of The Master Genealogist. My husband did the installation, and it seemed to go smoothly for him. As I began working with it, I encountered no difficulty, and most of it looked very similar to Version 7. I did have to re-create my customized screen layout, but I could immediately begin working in the software.

I did find one problem though, and I do not know whether to blame myself or the software. It ate one of my sources, the Alex Mattila Estate. This source, which I have cited 13 times, has disappeared from the Master Source List although the associated tags continue to show that they do have a source. Where did the source information go, and how do I get it back? Via an internet search, I cannot find anyone else who has experienced this problem. I cannot find any information on how to recover source information.

Rather than trying to do a repair to the data, instead we opted to re-install Version 8. I will have to redo the small amount of work I had done after the initial installation, but at least the data set is intact. I hope my experience with the data-eating vampire was my own fault and not a bug in this new product.

Preparing For a New Generation

Last week I spent time in upstate New York caring for my grandchildren. Not much opportunity for doing genealogy that week, but it offered precious time to know the youngest generation of the family. After all, I pursue my research in order to hand some family history down to them someday.

This year I will reach my goal of documenting for them the lives of my great-grandparents, except for one great-grandfather whose identity may remain unknown. These people are great-great-great grandparents to my grandchildren, just 8 of the 32 ancestors they have in that generation. Their lives spanned a huge time period from the birth of Samuel Harvey Reed in 1845 to the death of Ole Bentsen in 1976.

It is the story of immigrants and of homesteaders, and how they came to live in the American West. It explains so much about who we are today. How I wish I had received this much information on my own third great-grandparents!

Anxious to Upgrade

Earlier this week, I learned that The Master Genealogist (TMG) software sub-group will discuss the recently-released TMG version 8 at next month’s Computer Interest Group meeting. One of the facilitators already uses it, and he takes his laptop to the meetings. This will give me an opportunity to view the product before I upgrade to it.

I migrated to TMG a few years ago. I liked the software’s ability to handle more details and to create better citations than the product I used before. But the version I have does not work well with Windows 7. I have had difficulty preparing reports. Now I wish I did not have to wait an entire month to see Version 8 in action.

In the meantime, I am continuing to update my records in Version 7. When I did the original research on my Finnish family, I still used a different software that did not accommodate all the data from many of my sources. Now I am reviewing all those old documents and adding information to my database. Maybe as I do this, I will unearth an important clue for further research on this family.

I Begin With the Finns

Common wisdom tells us to write to relatives early in the process of researching a new line. So far with my Finnish project, I am finding that the relatives do not have much to offer. My aunt and uncle do not know any more than I do about the family history. Their cousins, who are younger than I am, know even less. It seems I will have to do the heavy lifting on this one.