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The Music Theory of Genealogy

The Music Theory of Genealogy

Lessons in life often translate to lessons in genealogy. Here’s an example of how digging deeper can have you singing a happier research tune.

The music theory of genealogy 

The Music of My Childhood

When I was a kid I had a million interests (and I still do.)

I loved art of all kinds – painting, drawing, and paper mache. I enjoyed baking and particularly candy-making. I had a teal blue easy bake oven I used constantly, and a cotton candy making machine that spun sugar into treats – Yum!

cotton candy making

Making cotton candy with my Dad, Christmas 1970.

At the age of eight I learned to water-ski. It came surprisingly easy, so much so that my Dad got me a pair of short trick skis on which I learned to do a full 360 degree turn. 

And like most kids I took piano lessons starting in the first grade. My mom bought an old upright piano for $75, and painted it bright red (you can see where I got my artistic flair from!) 

My first piano teacher was a lovely lady who happened to be a paraplegic. This meant that she sat across the room from me and the piano and never actually touched the piano. I learned a love of music from her for which I’ll always be grateful. She was a patient teacher with her rambunctious student. But years later after we moved and I started up with a new piano teacher, I discovered I was clueless about fingering which was why many songs seemed unreasonably difficult to me.

It’s eye-opening to realize you didn’t know what you didn’t know.

Something else that slowed me down was not really learning music theory. Oh I had learned the basics, and became a laser-focused sight-reader of music. But my while my second teacher taught me scales, I don’t recall her ever saying why we were doing them. Needless to say, I didn’t practice them because I didn’t know why we were bothering with these notes that weren’t songs. Therefore, I never learned them or their significance to music. 

One of my all time favorite songs was and still is One Less Bell to Answer by the Fifth Dimension. I first heard it on the TV series It Takes a Thief starring Robert Wagner which ran from 1968 to 1970. The song was featured in the third season episode called Sing a Song of Murder.

5th dimension

5th Dimension on Sing a Song of Murder

The 5th Dimension were the guest stars that week, and Marilyn McCoo sang that torch song like no one else could. I drove my mom crazy as I belted it out from the top of my lungs and begged her for 5th Dimension albums for my birthday. I still have my original 5th Dimension Live double album and the 5th Dimension Greatest Hits on Earth, both of which feature the song. 

5th dimension

Harder than the Average Song

The other day I was falling down a rabbit hole on Instagram where I saw that Marilyn McCoo and her husband Bill David, Jr. had started an Instagram account (you can follow them here). I started following them, enjoying reading about how they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and seeing old TV clips and new video of their performances.

I got to thinking about that To Catch a Thief episode and soon the rabbit hole led me to YouTube where I watched it. From there I found a tunnel to MusicNotes.com where I bought the sheet music for One Less Bell to Answer. 

I sat down, excited to play it, and was stopped in my tracks. This Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic was as hard to play as any of Liszt’s classics!

Although I have continued to play piano all these years, I slogged and fumbled and scratched my way through to the end. My weakness in fingering skills and music theory was painfully apparent. I decided there and then that I wanted this one badly enough that I was willing to go back to the basics, learn what I didn’t know about music, and practice daily. 

And so I found myself a good video series on music theory basics. I’ve been devoting a half an hour each day to learning the Circle of Fifths, scales and chords. I also put my husband through listening to me do another half an hour a day of practice, with an emphasis on One Less Bell to Answer. My husband says I’m getting better, though I’m still frustrated that it’s not yet quite where I want it to be. 

Along the way though, something really interesting has happened.

I have noticed something wonderful after each painful, slow study and practice session. When I go back to my regular music (my sheet music stack includes the likes of Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac, Bach, Beethoven, Billy Joel, one of my favorite composers, Mr. Rogers), that music is much easier, and I’m much better at playing it! In fact, it’s more of a joy to play than ever, and I usually end up playing another hour in the evening, giving up time previously wasted on television. 

So what does this have to do with family history and genealogy? Well…

Mastering the Music of the Genealogical Brick Wall

One Less Bell to Answer was not only my favorite song, but one of the toughest to master. So let me ask you, what’s your toughest genealogy case right now?

We all have a brick wall or two that has plagued us. I get emails every day from listeners of the Genealogy Gems Podcast outlining the family history challenge that has them stumped. Sometimes I think their hope is that I might have a genealogical silver bullet, or that I might be aware of some low-hanging genealogical fruit that they’ve over looked. I always encourage listeners to write in because many times there is a quick source or strategy that I can offer that they just may have missed. Or I can refer them to one of our articles, videos or podcast episodes that can provide a more in-depth answer. There’s always value in sharing with others the research challenges we face, and soliciting ideas and input. 

However, in many cases, the answer is not so simple. Many of the cases described go well beyond a quick search at one of the Genealogy Giants websites. (You can learn more about them here.) These are cases that don’t have an easy answer. There isn’t one source just waiting to be found. 

Sing a Song of Genealogy

Genealogical brick wall cases are much like the most glorious torch songs. They will require more education, steady relentless work, and a willingness to end each research session (like a piano practice session) unsatisfied with the current results. But when we stay focused and persist, we can remain optimistic that the end result will be worth it. 

This answer to tough genealogical questions isn’t a popular one. That’s due in part to the increased tech tools and vast online databases (which are all fantastic boons for the genealogist by the way), that appear to offer instant gratification. This auto-generated “genealogy” can actually dilute our research edge when we really need it. We can be lulled into believing there should always be a quick fix. We find ourselves not as willing to stop, create a research plan, set up a tracking spreadsheet, and execute a plan to find the answer. 

Many a family tree (particularly online) is filled with errors created by an unwillingness to take the time to dig deep. For example, are we really sure we have the right ancestor when there are several men by that name in that county at that time? Did we really prove it? 

Genealogy Research Plans

Is creating and using a genealogy research plan new to you? That’s not usual.

These days, many people first come to climbing their family tree through a genealogy app. Several of the popular genealogy apps allow you to instantly start adding what you know already about your family to your family tree on the app. Then the app starts serving up record hints and matches – genealogical records it thinks may match the people you have added. It may also connect you to other users who share branches of your family tree.

While there’s a bit of instant gratification in all this, it doesn’t help us see the bigger picture, or develop our skills as a researcher. In a sense, we are following the app’s research plan (and I use that term very loosely here), rather than developing and conducting our own research plan.

When we finally take up the baton, and start leading our own research, we will gain more satisfaction and end up singing the right song. 

Conduct your own research

To learn more about genealogy research plans, read my article Which Way Do I Go Now? Organize a Genealogy Research Plan. Genealogy Gems Premium members can watch the Premium video Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan here. (Membership and log in required.)

Finding Genealogical Answers

If you’re facing an imposing genealogical brick wall, why not set aside all your other searches, and just work on this one? Slog along, fight your way through it! Do it for an hour every day. If your knowledge is lacking, go find the answers. Get up to speed on the areas you don’t know enough about. 

It helps to accept that this genealogical answer that you seek, like a really wonderful song, is going to require more learning and practice than the average answer. But when it’s done, you’ll have the satisfaction of having conquered a really tough one, and the confidence that you got it right.

I can promise you this. When you take the time to craft and work a real and true genealogical research plan, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that when you go back to your other research, you will find it easier, and more enjoyable.

And yes, I’m still working on mastering my favorite song. Follow me on instagram and when I have it mastered, I’ll play it for you. 

Please use the social buttons at the top of this post to share it with your genealogy friend. 

 

Time to Explore New Online Genealogical Records

Time to Explore New Online Genealogical Records

You’re going to want to make some time in your schedule this week to explore these new genealogy records that just might help you discover a new branch of your family tree! This week we highlight a wide variety of intriguing records including historical maps, oral histories, workhouse records, and historical newspapers. (Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for helping us bring these free articles to you!)

Bird’s-Eye View Maps Are Now Online

Maps are often things of beauty, and many of the maps at the DSpace online repository are no exception. Like many libraries, the State Library of Massachusetts has a large collection of bird’s-eye view maps. These maps have now been digitized and are available online.
 
Though the collection focuses on Massachusetts, the maps are not limited to just that state. A search of “New York” retrieves this Bird’s-eye view of the city of New York from 1853:
new york map 1853
 
This online collection currently includes 120 maps and most of the maps date from the late 1800s up to the early 1900s.
 
Keep an eye on this collection, particularly if you’re genealogical research takes your family tree into Massachusetts because the word is that there will be many more added in the near future. 

You can search and browse the collection in the State of Massachusetts’ DSpace online repository here.  

 

Ohio World War II Oral Histories Digital Collection

World War II ended in 1945 making a man who enlisted at the age of 18 that year, 92 years old today. A new digital archive at Bowling Green State University is striving to digitize old cassette tapes and video tapes that contain interviews with over 100 veterans from Ohio. 

According to the website,  the exhibit “provides full digital access to the History 303 World War II oral histories (MS-0871). The oral histories were collected from 2000-2004 for a “History of World War II” (History 303) course taught by Drs. Walter E. Grunden and Kathren Brown in the BGSU Department of History, who assigned students the project of recording an interview with an individual who directly experienced the war, whether as a military veteran, Holocaust survivor, refugee, or non-combatant on the home front.”

WWII Ohio oral histories

BGSU’s World War II veteran oral histories include both men and women. who served.

The project is part of a $6,700 grant the university received from the Ohio History Connection. A helpful finding aid is available for the collection here at the BGSU website

You can search and view the interview here. If you’re like me, you’ll find these interviews with many of the Greatest Generation compelling to watch even if you don’t have relatives from Ohio.

 

Findmypast: New and exclusive Donegal Workhouse records

Findmypast has added over 400,000 Donegal, Ireland records to their growing collection of Irish Workhouse records.

The Donegal Workhouses Registers and Minute Books have been digitized and published online for the first time by Findmypast in partnership with the Donegal County Council. 

The records consist of both transcripts and images of original admission and discharge registers as well as board of guardians’ minute books spanning the years 1840 to 1922.

The collection covers the unions of:

  • Ballyshannon
  • Donegal
  • Dunfanaghy
  • Glentis
  • Inishowen
  • Letterkenny
  • Milford
  • and Stranorlar.

As well as registers and minute books, users can also expect to find:

  • accounts
  • death registers
  • dispensary notices
  • letters
  • notices
  • notifications
  • petitions
  • relief registers
  • supplier contracts
  • Union receipts, and more.

From Findmypast: “High levels of poverty in 19th century Ireland meant that hundreds of thousands of Irish people passed through the workhouses. Irish workhouses were generally built to accommodate around 800 inmates although it soon became clear that more space was needed and programme of building took place throughout the 1840s and 50s.

former workhouse taken in Dunfanaghy, Donegal

Former workhousein Dunfanaghy, Donegal Flickr user nz_willowherb [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Life inside was grim. At first, there was no so-called outdoor relief, as would have been common in England. Outdoor relief was when the poor could simply use the workhouse facilities as needed by undertaking a day’s work. Indoor relief was initially the only option and required the poor to prove they were destitute before they were admitted.”

This new collection is part of an existing archive of Irish Workhouse records which now includes over 3.1 million records covering Dublin, Clare, Sligo and Waterford.

British & Irish Newspaper Update

Findmypast has added 137,896 new pages to The Archive. These have been added to 18 existing publications spanning 128 years from 1871 to 1999.

The historical newspapers with new additions include:

  • Staffordshire Sentinel: 1906-1910, 1918-1919
  • Newcastle Evening Chronicle: 1894, 1913, 1919
  • The People: 1946-1949
  • Newcastle Chronicle: 1875-1896, 1899-1900
  • Surrey Advertiser: 1909
  • Limerick Chronicle: 1825
  • Aberdeen Press and Journal: 1983-1984
  • Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle: 1873-1911, 1925-1933, 1958-1969
  • Pinner Observer: 1999
  • Harrow Leader: 1998-1999
  • Ealing Leader: 1998-1999
  • Hayes & Harlington Gazette: 1998-1999
  • Acton Gazette: 1871-1880, 1885, 1888-1892, 1894-1903, 1910-1917, 1921-1939
  • Amersham Advertiser: 1998
  • Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush Gazette: 1991
  • Dumfries and Galloway Standard: 1874, 1884
  • Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough: 1901-1902
  • Hamilton Advertiser: 1889-1892, 1894, 1897, 1901, 1903-1904, 1906-1908

New Free Historical Records at FamilySearch

Search these new records and images by clicking on the collection links below. The number shown in parenthesis is the number of indexed records added. 

Australia: Australia, South Australia, Prison Records, 1838-1912 (81,971) New indexed records collection

Belgium: Belgium, Namur, Civil Registration, 1800-1912 (402) Added indexed records to existing collection

Canada: Nova Scotia Births, 1864-1877 (183,455) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Canada: Nova Scotia Marriages, 1864-1918 (18,885) Added indexed records to an existing collection

England: England, Herefordshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1583-1898 (594,707) New indexed records collection

Germany: Germany, Saxony-Anhalt, Halberstadt, Civil Registration, 1874-1982 (12,060) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Lesotho: Lesotho, Evangelical Church Records, 1828-2005 (302) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Liberia: Liberia, Marriage Records, 1912-2015 (2,475) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Luxembourg: Luxembourg, Civil Registration, 1796-1941  (73,901) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru: Peru, Cemetery Records, 1912-2013 (42,164) New indexed records collection

Scotland: Scotland Presbyterian & Protestant Church Records, 1736-1990  (109,064) New indexed records collection

United States: Arkansas Confederate Pensions, 1901-1929 (33,779) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: Arkansas, Church Records, 1922-1977 (306) New indexed records collection

United States: California, Church Records, 1864-1985 1,941 New indexed records collection

United States: California, Santa Clara County, San Jose, Oak Hill Cemetery Headstone Inscriptions, 1838-1985 (61,966) New indexed record collection

United States: Colorado, Church Records, 1692-1942 (35,030) New indexed records collection

United States: Connecticut, Vital Records, Prior to 1850 (8) Added indexed records to existing collection

United States: Massachusetts, City of Boston Voter Registers, 1857-1920 (32,996) New indexed records collection

United States: Michigan, Civil War Centennial Observance Commission, Committee on Civil War Grave Registration, Burial Records (15,951) New indexed records collection

United States: Minnesota, County Deaths, 1850-2001 (8,672) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: Nebraska, Box Butte County, Funeral Home Records, 1919-1976 (3,491) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: Nebraska, Church Records, 1875-1899 (151) New indexed records collection

United States: Pennsylvania, Berks County, Reading, Charles Evans Cemetery and Crematory Burial Records, 1887-1979 (106,043) New indexed records collection

United States: Texas, Bexar County, San Antonio Cemetery Records, 1893-2007 (4,981) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: United States Deceased Physician File (AMA), 1864-1968 (78,215) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Share Your Story

Did you find an ancestor or bust a brick wall using our list of new online genealogical records? Please leave a comment below and share your story and inspire others. And while you’re at it, please share this article using our social buttons (at the top of this article) with your genealogy friends. We thank you, and they will too!

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Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 231

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 231

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 231
with Lisa Louise Cooke
July 2019

Listen now, click player below:

Download the episode (mp3)

In this episode:

  • The latest tech news from Google Earth, FamilySearch and MyHeritage
  • Alice’s Story – genealogy research with blogger Julianne Mangin
  • Cemeteries – both for ancestors and their pets

Please take our quick PODCAST SURVEY which will take less than 1 minute.  Thank you!

NEWS:

Google Earth News

Jennifer in California sent me a fascinating item recently , and she says “Thought you might get a kick out today’s blurb from Google, where they pat themselves on the back for what can be done with Google Earth. No argument from me; it’s amazing!”

So, what can be done with Google Earth besides all the family history projects that I teach here on the podcast and in the Premium videos? Well, Peter Welch and Weekend Wanderers in the UK are using Google Earth to find treasure!

Read all about it here
Visit the Weekend Wanderers website

FamilySearch Adds Audio

FamilySearch.org, the free and massive genealogy website from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  has added a new way for you to add more memories to your tree.

In addition to photos you can now add audio both at the website and the FamilySearch FamilyTree and Memories apps which you can download from your mobile device’s app store.

So now as you’re selecting and uploading family photos to familysearch, you can also gather and record the stories that go with those photos. It’s sort of like being able to write on the back on the photograph, but in an even more personal way.

Your voice, and the voices of your relatives can now be part of your family’s history.

Read the article about adding audio

From the FamilySearch website: “Photos and audio attached to deceased ancestors can be viewed by other users on the FamilySearch Family Tree. To protect privacy, photos and audio attached to living people can be seen only by the person who added the memory unless that person shares the memory or album with another user.”

MyHeritage App update

Among the newly introduced features are Family Timelines, the ability to view family trees that you’re matched with, the ability to choose which information you extract from Smart Matches™, an improved research page, and more. Read all about it here

 

MAILBOX:

We received lots of great feedback on the article 3 Shocking Discoveries I’ve Made While Searching Cemeteries by Joy Neighbors

From Craig: “After finding my Paternal grandfather and great-grandfather, I looked for my Paternal GG Grandfather in the same area. No luck. I went to the R.B. Hayes library in Tiffin, Ohio and started looking at every page in the burial listing for the township I thought he would be in. And there he was – last name misspelled! (The “A” was changed to a “K”.) I was able to drive over to the cemetery and located his stone – still readable after his burial in 1885. I plan to go back to the area this summer to look for his wife, who was buried elsewhere (they were separated.) I wish I could get someone to update the lists with the correct spelling, to match the gravestone and census papers, but that seems impossible to do.”

From Ann:
“My brother Ray says we have visited more dead relatives than live ones. Trying now to visit the relatives above ground!”

From LeRoy:
Spent many hours walking, crawling, pushing through brush brambles and briers just to find and take pictures of tombstones. I regret only one such adventure. If I may. My sweetheart and I went to a small cemetery in New Jersey to gather family names and pictures for Billion Graves and our personal records. While I was taking pictures, my wife was clipping brush and bushes from the stone that identified her families plot.

We had a great day. I filled two clips of pictures and my sweetheart did a magnificent job on that stone. It was only a few hours later, when she started itching that I really “looked” at the pictures and realized that the brush that she cleared from that stone was poison ivy. Wouldn’t have been so bad, but when she found that I’m not affected by poison oak, ivy or sumac. She was not happy.

From Shirley:
I have recently started doing ancestry research and have been astounded at what I have found. No creepy tree stories. However, it is nice to know that some ancestors took special care to by buy family plots even though they knew eventually the girls might marry and want to be buried with their husband. I found it interesting that both my grandfather and my grandmother are both buried with their individual parents.

From Patsy:
Shirley’s  story jogged my memory. My mother died in 1934 when I was 4 years old. She is buried in her father’s plot rather than my paternal grandfather’s plot. I have wondered for years why the burial was arranged that way and imagine all sorts of situations. Were the families feuding? Was one family more financially able to foot the bill. Did my paternal grandfather not like my father? Hmmmm………

From Sharon:
I checked out this book from the local library about a month ago. Decided I needed my own copy. All genealogist should read it. It is very informative & entertaining.

From Marinell:
About 5 years ago I found the farm on which my gr great grandparents were buried. The tall granite marker with the parents’ names had been knocked over, the foot stones stacked and several large rocks were around the monument and it was in the middle of a field that was being planted and harvested. We made contact with the owner and received permission to have it raised.

In the meantime, I found an obituary for a son who was buried on the family farm. I also found an article about a woman who did dowsing, contacted her and she agreed to come perform the dowsing. I was videoing it when my phone went totally dead! I had never had that happen and it was charged. Thirty minutes later it came back on mysteriously!

She found 2 adult women, 2 adult men and three toddlers. After further search I found another obituary for a grown daughter buried there and 3 toddler grandchildren who died in 1882. She said that the large rocks would have marked the graves. Sadly, they had totally desecrated the family cemetery. But I was excited to learn all I did and was startled by the phone totally dying.

The free podcast is sponsored by RootsMagic

RootsMagic

Julianne and her momGEM: Genealogy Research with Julianne Mangin

We first talked to Julianne last year  in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 219. In that episode we explored the tragic story of Julianne’s ancestors, the Metthe family. It was a riveting case study of the twists and turns that genealogy can take us on.GEM: Checking in with Julianne Mangin

Julianne had originally been a bit of a reluctant genealogist. But after a 30 year career in library science, including 14 years as a librarian and website developer for the Library of Congress in Washington DC, she could couldn’t help but try to find the truther in the piecemeal stories that she was told by her mother.

Julianne has continued to research and write at her Julianne Mangin blog, and I thought it would fun to check back in with her and see what she’s been up to.

Her latest blog series is called Alice’s Story. It follows the path of discovery she followed to uncover the story of a previously unknown aunt.

  1. Alice’s Story Part 1
  2. Alice’s Story Part 2the Exeter School
  3. Alice’s Story Part 3Final Resting Place

The research began where most good genealogical research begins: at the end of Alice’s life and her death certificate.

Institutional Records – But with few records and no first-hand interviews available, Julianne turned to researching the institutions themselves to dig deeper into Alice’s experience.
Resource:
Genealogy Gems Premium Video: Institutional Records (membership required)

State Census Records can help fill in the gaps between the federal census enumerations.  Search for “state census” in the card catalog:

Ancestry State Census

MyHeritage State Census

The free podcast is sponsored by MyHeritage

 MyHeritage

Resource:
State Censuses at the FamilySearch Wiki

“Copies of many state censuses are on microfilm at the Family History Library. The Family History Library’s most complete collections of state censuses are for Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. However, censuses exist for the following states also: 

ArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoDelawareDistrict of ColumbiaFloridaGeorgiaHawaiiIndianaLouisianaMaineMarylandMichiganMissouriNebraskaNevadaNew MexicoNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOklahomaOregonRhode IslandSouthCarolinaSouthDakotaTennesseeTexasUtah
VirginiaWashington and Wyoming.

State, colonial, and territorial censuses at the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under “STATE – CENSUS RECORDS”

Old Postcards are a great resource for images.
Resources:
Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 16 and episode 76 feature strategies for finding family history on ebay. (Genealogy Gems Premium Membership required)

 

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member
Gain access to the complete Premium podcast archive of over 150 episodes and more than 50 video webinars, including Lisa Louise Cooke’s newest video The Big Picture in Little Details.
Learn more here

Institutional Annual Reports – Julianne searched for annual reports to the Legislature for more details on the various institutions where Alice resided.
Resources:
Library of Congress Catalog

WorldCat.org
Google Books

Old Newspapers offered a counterbalance to the annual reports.
Resources:
Genealogybank

Newspapers.com
MyHeritage

“The institutions were like characters in the story.”

Also mentioned in this interview:
The Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission
Julianne’s Pet Cemetery Stories blog
Rags, War Hero

BAckblaze

You worked really hard on your family history – protect it with the Cloud backup service that Lisa uses: Backblaze.com/Lisa

Download the Show Notes PDF in the Genealogy Gems Podcast app. 

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