Category Archives: Personal Family History/Research

Tuesday’s Tip – PA State Death Index, 1906-1961 — WooHoo!

The long awaited (for me, anyway) Pennsylvania State Death Index for the years 1906 to 1961 finally came online yesterday and I have been making the most of it! The vast majority of the individuals in my genealogy database are from Pennsylvania. All of my immigrant ancestors arrived in America between the late 1600s and mid to late 1700s and came to PA. My direct lines as well as many cousin lines stayed.

I am using this index as additional death date source for those individuals for whom I have already found a death date – i.e. in an obit or on a tombstone, etc. I am also using it to find an exact date (which can be confirmed with further research) in the cases where I have only a year or a month and year. At this point, I have found just over 100!

As other bloggers [link and link] have noted, the database is not searchable. It is really just a collection of browse-able files which are images of the paper index. For some years the index is alphabetical. For other years, the index is alphabetized by soundex codes. There are instructions on the site to calculate the soundex code by hand, but I found an online calculator here: [link].

The index for each year is broken up into several files – usually about 5 or 6 or more. To make things go a little faster, I used Legacy Family Tree’s advanced tagging feature to find all the individuals who may possibly be in the PA Death Index. I then exported those individuals to GenViewer (a Legacy add-on) for ease of sorting so I’m not flipping back and forth between different years and different files within a year. This has really helped to streamline my workflow.

If you have Pennsylvania people in your database for these years, then this is a resource that you really need to check out. (Oh, there’s also a birth index, but due to the 105 year privacy restriction, it is only for the year 1906 for now.)

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Two Degrees of Separation

It’s been a while since I participated in Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night of Genealogy Fun, so I thought it was about time to give it another try! His original post for this week is here: [link].

The basic idea was to see how far back you could go in your ancestry where a grandparent and grandchild were acquainted. I got back to my 8x’s great-grandfather, John Chalfont, born 1660. It’s sort of a leap of faith that these very distant ancestors were personally acquainted. But since they all lived in Chester Co., Pennsylvania for many generations, I will assume that they actually met.

Since I was feeling creative tonight (must have been that glass of wine LOL – see [link]), I decided to create a quick scrapbook page to show my every-other- generation connection to John Chalfont. I also included the “missing” generations. They are the names without dates. So here it is:

Two Degrees of Separation Layout

How about you – how far back is your “Two Generations of Separation?”

(Almost) Wordless Wedding Wednesday – Winter Wedding

I’ve been told that my grandfather had a rule – only one of his children could get married each year. This made for some interesting family dynamics in the late 1950s. You see, there were seven children in the family, my Mom being the youngest. The first wedding to take place was that of my Mom’s 2nd oldest brother. He married in 1952. After that, the weddings apparently stalled out until my Dad, at some point in 1957, announced to his future in-laws that 1958 was “the year” that he and my Mom would marry.

At first the other siblings weren’t sure if he was serious. My Dad was close friends with my Mom’s older brothers and if you were familiar with his sense of humor, you would understand why they thought he might be joking! Once my Uncle Larry, my Mom’s oldest brother, realized that my Dad was completely serious, he quickly proposed to his long time girl friend and they planned their wedding before the end of 1957. Thus my Uncle Larry and Aunt Lucille married December 29, 1957. And the story doesn’t end there – my Mom’s sister Jane claimed 1959, leaving 1960 for their brother Charles.

Garner - Jackson Wedding (12/29/1957)

Credits: family wedding photo; scrapkit: Christmas Wish

Happy New Year 2012!

Hard to believe, but here we are ringing in another new year! I’m not really one to make New Year’s Resolutions, but I was thinking maybe it’s not such a bad idea to list out some genealogy resolutions/research goals for this year. (Maybe it will be the inspiration and motivation I need to stay on track!)

  1. Scan and Digitize – This is actually an on-going project for me. While most of my ancestor photos are scanned, I recently found a box of photos from my own childhood as well as a couple of old albums. I really should scan them soon as some are already starting to fade and discolor. And while I’m at it, I also need to scan documents (like obituaries clipped from newspapers, funeral cards, wills, etc). I have even been thinking it would be worthwhile to enter at least some of the information in my research notebooks into a spread sheet or word doc.
  2. Tag the scanned photos and other images – This will make for easier search and retrieval. I started doing this with some of my recent digital photos, but I really need to add the tags to the older photos and scanned images also.
  3. On-site Research – While I am constantly amazed at the new records being added to online sites like familysearch and ancestry, there is still so much that is just not available online. Taking into account county court houses/archives, historical societies and genealogical societies, there are at least 10 that are within about an hour or so from my home. I’ve been to most of these, though not recently. I really need to put together a research plan and go back and revisit some of these places to get additional information.
  4. Continue photographing cemeteries and contributing to Find-a-grave. (This one doesn’t really need further explanation.)
  5. Re-Evaluate Genealogy Software – While I’m mostly happy with the software I currently use, there are 2 major issues that really bother me: 1) the database is not “normalized” resulting in redundant storage and difficulty maintaining data integrity and 2) inadequate method for handling uncertainty. At this point I don’t know if any of the other programs out there address these areas better, but I think it is probably worthwhile to check into it.

So there you have it — I think these goals should keep me busy for a while!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful new year!!!

Advent Calendar – Holiday Foods (Our Mega-Meals!)

This is the second in the series of Geneablogger’s Advent Calendar prompts – Holiday Foods.

When I was growing up, the majority of our Christmas (and other holiday) meals were held at my maternal Grandmother’s house and included a large group of cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives and “adopted” family.  There was no alternating between my Dad’s family and my Mom’s. For us it was always my Mom’s. My father was the youngest of three boys. His mother passed away several years before my parents were married. One of his brothers moved out of state and the other lived about 30 minutes away. My paternal grandfather lived with us but had a long-time girlfriend and spent most holidays with her. And so our family always celebrated with the Garner clan. This was very convenient since usually meals were held at my grandmother’s house and she only lived about a block away from us.

My grandmother loved to cook and so she was really in her element come the holidays. Her maiden name was Evans, and she was very proud of her Welsh heritage… But when I started researching our family history I discovered that in reality she had a lot more Pennsylvania Dutch than Welsh in her blood. Her Evans ancestors immigrated to Pennsylvania about 1698 and spent the next 200 years intermarrying with women of  German (Pennsylvania Dutch) ancestry. Actually, my grandmother’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots should have been obvious given the type of food she prepared – not just at holidays, but throughout the year.

Getting back to Christmas dinner. This meal was always a sit down affair for between 20 and 30 people, served at the noon hour. The number of people varied since, unlike us, some of my mom’s six siblings did on occasion spend the holidays with their in-laws. My Grandmother’s large rectangular table was expanded to its capacity with its 3 extra boards. Then it was pushed to the side so that another long folding table could be set up next to it. Yes, we all somehow managed to squeeze into her dining room! It was tight, so luckily most of us were fairly thin back then – LOL!

There was always enough food to feed a small army. The staples were turkey, potato filling (regular and oyster filling), sweet potatoes and corn. There were at least two or three other vegetables too, but they tended to vary from year to year. Then there were the side dishes of cranberry sauce, homemade apple sauce, chow-chow and  others that I was never brave enough to try! And according to one of my aunts, a meal was never complete without bread or rolls, so one or the other or both were included too!

After dinner there was a waiting period before dessert was served. As another aunt put it, this was to “let the grease settle.” Dessert was an assortment of cakes and pies. There was always a pumpkin pie as well as pumpkin custard. My one uncle married a woman who was an only child and they had no children of their own. So my aunt’s parents, the Jacksons, always celebrated with us. Mrs. Jackson’s specialty was walnut cake and she would bring that each year. We also had mince meat pie – another dish that I was never brave enough to try!

I looked for a photo of a family meal at my grandmothers, but couldn’t find any. :{  So as the next best thing, I am including one taken at the home of my aunt and uncle. I believe the year was 1967, and we are all at one super-long table set up in their living room.  I noticed that several families were missing that year, which probably explains why they were able to convince my grandmother to let someone else host. She is wearing her apron, however, so she apparently was still really involved in the food preparation!

Family Holiday Dinner, 1967 Credits: scrapkit is Thankful by SKDigitals