Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Content at Before My Time is protected by copyright and may not be copied for publication elsewhere without permission. © T. K. Sand.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

To split or not to split? That is the question!

A question comes up periodically in the various genealogy groups I belong to: whether to keep a single genealogy database, or separate databases for husband & wife, or maybe a separate database for unverified information, or... well, there are endless possibilities here, and I must admit, I've tried a few! On my own computer, I have just had Legacy create a list of available databases for me to open, and I am appalled to see that there are 32 (!) databases in the list. A few, it appears, may be duplicates.

A few are databases which were created by other people and shared with me in their entirety. For example, there are a couple iterations of my cousin's database which includes our common grandparents, and everyone else in her tree. I would never consider adding this to my own database, but it's handy if I want to see whether her data includes anything for our common ancestors which I don't already have. I'm not sure I've actually done so more than once or twice over the years.

Another is a database for one of my lines--a very voluminous line, indeed--which I was able to download from a website. I haven't added this one to my own database either, mainly because a lot of people in it were already in my database, and I don't feel like going through the Merge process for so many people. Sometimes I add individuals manually from that database to my own if, for example, I want Legacy to figure out that Person X is, say, my seventh cousin, once removed.

One database is the family tree of a friend, made when I was trying to interest her in genealogy.

The rest are an assortment of my own lines which include a few separate surname databases and various versions of my main database. Honestly, at this point, I can't tell you which of them are still useful and which are obsolete.

The fact is that I really use only one of these 32 databases on a regular basis. That is the one which contains all of my lines, all affiliated lines that are interesting to me, and all data that pertains to my children and their children (and thus includes whatever I have on spouses past & present). It would be a swell example of revisionist history to remove my ex-husband from my database and put his tree in a separate database, but we were married, we had kids, and consequently he and his relatives are in my children's family tree, and thus they are in mine for better or worse. That's how family trees come into existence in the first place, isn't it?

One tree... so much simpler! I, for one, would not want to waste my time switching between databases all the time. The extra annoyance of that would diminish my enjoyment of the pursuit. And, as others have observed, sometimes you find something unexpected--one lineage being connected to another several generations back, for example, and that adds considerably to the fun and interest value of research.

My personal database is not synced with any online tree, as I regard online trees as an entirely different matter. On Ancestry, I've set up 24 different trees, most of which are marked Private and were set up solely for the purpose of exploring shaky leaves for a particular individual or surname. Any important data found as a result has been added manually to the database on my own computer, and I could probably delete most of those trees at this point without a backward glance.

If I add something questionable to my database, I leave myself a note in the Notes section. I discovered a long time ago that perfectionism takes the joy out of doing stuff, and pretty soon, if you can't be perfect, you don't even want to play anymore. So I have let go of the idea of database perfection, and I just aim for 'as good as it can be right now' and make notes.

I do genealogy. How many times have you heard someone say, in response to that, "ours has already been done." Translation: "There's no reason for me to look into it." That's too bad, because looking into it is the fun part! I'm perfectly happy to say that my database is never going to be the ultimate answer to the world's genealogy, or even to just my kids' genealogy. I think of it more as a tool for my own use in doing my research, and if there are unanswered questions in the Notes field, maybe someday my kids will discover how much fun it is to go looking for their own answers to history. I would hope my database is only the beginning. In other words, it's the road map, not the trip.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Royalties? Or Royal Tease? You decide!

Have you found a little Queen in your family tree? If you haven't yet, you will today!

Friday, April 08, 2016

What You Can Do with Unwanted Family Archives

I've read a few items lately pertaining to the problem of what can be done with historical items such as photographs and documents when there is no family member who wants to keep them. Some of them come to us when our parents or grandparents pass on. When there are no children to inherit them, many times these personal treasures are handed over to second-hand dealers who sell them, and they end up being purchased by others who may or may not regard them as valuable historical items.

Some people use them in collage or craft projects--yes, I know, we are genealogists here and we are all shuddering at the very thought! We would never do that!

Some people recognize that the items may be of value to someone now or in the future. The first step they take is to digitize the items and post them online somewhere, in hopes that a family member will come upon them and claim them. I've done that myself here at Before My Time, and was able to turn over a couple different items to people who were glad to get them. I have to admit, it's a little bit thrilling to be able to do that, and maybe all the moreso because I waited years for the items to be found!

And what about our own archives that we, as genealogists and family historians, have devoted untold hours of our lives building? What if our own descendants are not interested in inheriting and making a safe and thermally proper home for our real family treasures--great grandfather's portrait and communion certificate, grandma & grandpa's marriage license, that box of tintypes and daguerrotypes and cabinet cards? Etc!

I'm no authority on how to handle this problem, but it seems to me that if there's no family member waiting impatiently to claim these items, maybe the best thing to do with them is to inquire at facilities whose business it is to maintain historical and research materials. The items may be offered to local or state organizations such as libraries and genealogical or historical societies. These are the places you and I would check if we were researching our ancestors, aren't they? It just makes sense to try to find a home for the items at a place where someone would come looking for them someday.

I have found items of interest for my own research in several such places. In addition, I happen to know that a cousin of mine was able to place such a collection at a well-established historical society which welcomed the items, and they'll be available there for generations to come.

In the long run, that may be a much better idea than trying to hand off items to family members whose interest level in family history is unremarkable, which is nothing but a short-term solution to the long-term problem of maintaining historical items.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Winter of My Genealogical Content

So, here's what happened...

I've been working on a book pertaining to one of my old New England lines. The family was voluminous, and I must have about 100,000 cousins in that line, counting the dead ones. They're a source of endless fascination, many of them having lived quite public lives, leaving behind a huge paper trail which includes not only the usual and fairly humdrum birth, marriage, and death documents, but also newspapers, magazines, and books written by, for, and about them. Well, because I just don't know when to stop, my book had to be broken into two books... no, wait, three... three books, yes, that should do it... or maybe four? Well, in truth, the collected materials in this line could fill a whole set of encyclopediae or possibly a medium-sized library if winter goes on much longer.

Anyhow, today's little topic begins with what I found a week or so ago. I was looking online for a photograph of one of these particular cousins. He was a well-known magazine editor, so I was sure there'd be a photo of him somewhere. And in the course of my Google-search, I happened to find his full name used as a first and middle name for someone who had an entirely different surname, one I hadn't come upon before. Surely a cousin!, my genealogical experience cried out. I must digress and research this person! (...because around here, that's how we roll.)

Well, yes, of course, he was a cousin on his mother's side, she being a direct descendant of the encyclopedia family. But wait, what about his wife? Her surname slipped into my gray matter like a greased pig, and synapses started firing, and before long, I realized where I'd come upon her unusual surname before. Here, let me explain.

The encyclopedia surname comes to me through my maternal grandfather, who was of English descent. He married (perhaps to his mother's consternation?) a woman of European descent whose ancestry in this country goes back only a couple of generations, her grandparents all having come over in the mid-1800s on various ships.

And it was one of those ships that was sailing around in my gray matter which now called out to me, as it bore the same unusual surname as this new cousin's wife. Could they be related, I wondered, the cousin's wife and the man whose name was immortalized on a ship that carried some immigrants to the New World in the 1800s? I must digress and research this person! (...because around here, as I mentioned, that's how we roll.)

Well, dear reader, would you be reading this story now if they weren't related? No! No, you would not! Of course they were related, she being a direct descendant of the man for whom the ship was named.

Now, I must admit and you probably already surmise, I'd researched this man a year or two ago when I found the record of my maternal grandmother's ancestors arriving upon the ship bearing his name. What did he do, I'd wondered, to have a ship named after him? Of course, I did digress at that time to search for the answer to that question. And although I did not find any specific answer--as in, "A ship was named for him because..."--I did find that he'd built something huge which was extremely useful to the world in its time, and I felt justified in jumping to the reasonable conclusion that someone thought to honor him in a shippy way, and I'd thought the story interesting enough that I put together at least four pages about it for the book I'm making about my grandmother's European lineage.

Thus it was that I had a little jump-start on the research of this new cousin's wife's ancestry, and plenty more help came in the form of a genealogy book pertaining to her family which was conveniently digitized (the book, not the family) and placed online for my quick edification. Glory, hallelujah! It was not this easy in the olden days! You know, back in '92.

For awhile, I thought it odd that the family genealogy book did not mention that a family member had had a ship named after him, which seems quite a big deal to a non-ship-connected person such as myself. After awhile, though, and upon learning more about the family, it occurred to me that perhaps it wasn't such a big deal if this were a ship-connected family, and that possibly it was a family-connected ship. If that were the case, I suppose it would be unnecessary, and probably even a bit gauche, to mention it in the family genealogy book. I guess I could research it more, but that might be a bigger digression than I'm willing to embark upon, having been quite spoiled by Google at this point despite not finding this particular answer there.

Anyhow, with information practically throwing itself at me (much faster than I could have taken notes with a pencil back in '92, I must say), I quickly learned that the movers and shakers of the New World spent a lot of time watching each other and writing about each other and engaging each other in projects large and small. My new-found cousin, for example, had a well-known architect build a summer mansion--um, I mean, a summer cottage, on oceanfront property (where else?)--for him and his ship-connected wife. It had a charming name, of course, and I had to digress and research this mans-... I mean, cottage (...because--well, you know why).

It was quite a grand cottage. To give you some idea how grand a cottage it was, I can tell you one of the things I found out about it: Mrs. John Jacob Astor rented it one season and made it the venue of her daughter's wedding. So, on the scale of How-Grand-Was-It?, you'd have to say its score was Astor-nomical.

This was not the kind of cottage that falls into disrepair over the decades. In fact, it was repair which sparked its unfortunate multi-million-dollar demise a short time ago. Yes, it's toast now. No loss to the family of my research though, having been sold long ago...

...unless, perhaps, the owner at the time of the fire happens to be one of my 100,000 cousins. Maybe I should digress and research that?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

How Detroit Got Laid

Out, okay? How Detroit Got Laid Out. Doin' my best to spice up history and bring your attention to what is quite possibly the best explanation you will ever get about why Detroit is laid out the way it is. Where has this movie been all my life?

You will have a full minute of beginning credits--plenty of time to go hot up your cup of coffee or clear enough room on your desk so you can lean back and put your feet up.

I know, I know... 15 minutes is a huge time commitment. Just do it.

Detroiters will be amused by the narrator's pronounciation of one of the main drags, Gratiot. For those of you who don't live here, the rest of us do not say Grah-zhit. In fact, I'd venture to say that no one in the known universe ever said Grah-zhit except the narrator of this movie.  Say Grass-shit. Go ahead, say it. Run it together and don't worry about those esses. It's Grass-shit. And there is no Warrant Avenue. Apparently the narrator of this movie was nearsighted and misread Warren. Just sayin'.

For quick reference on other detroit street topics, here are some links:

Steve Morse's list of street name changes

City of Detroit Old and New House Numbers - the 197-page PDF you can't live without

List of Detroit Street Names Linked to Map & Street View - very useful!

 The Streets of Detroit  - a work in progress

The Detroit 10 Street Names - how they were named

Metro Detroit Mile Roads - The movie only goes up to 8 Mile Road but, people, there is life beyond the city limits. This is a handy printable list of what the rest of the mile roads are called in suburbs where "Mile Road" just doesn't seem good enough. Personally, I find the number designation quite useful. I took my 94-year-old dad on a little joy-ride out Grass-shit to Richmond yesterday, and the numbered mile-road signs were very nice for noting our progress.

Boulevard, Avenue, Road and Street in Detroit - interesting article with overview maps

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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