Friday, February 23, 2018

The best of 2017

Last year had a lot of big accomplishments and memorable days for me - my genealogy business did better than ever, I got to attend DNA Day and the SCGS Jamboree again, and we commemorated the birthday and angel anniversary of my little boy Levi. Among everything that happened, one big thing stands out - an adoption research case I was asked to help on.

A coworker of mine had heard I was into genealogy, and wanted to know if I could help her find her birth family. I said sure, I'd be happy to do what I could. After following several DNA-related mailing lists and watching a few seasons of shows like Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots, I was expecting a long, drawn-out, exhaust every possible lead-style search. She brought me a stack of papers she'd collected from courts and other places. As I sorted through them, I was shocked to see how much information she had - transcripts and summaries of the court proceedings leading up to the adoption, detailed information (minus the names) of her birth parents and their families, including the name of the street they lived on and occupation of maternal grandfather. Also, the redaction on the birth mother's name in a couple places wasn't totally complete, as I could almost make out the first letter of her name, and definitely saw the last letter. I couldn't believe how much information there was right there.

I started with the city directory for the city the birth parents lived on for the year of the adoption (thank you Ancestry!). I went through every name on that street, searching for someone who had the occupation listed in the court records, or no occupation given, since it's not always listed. I'd made a list of about 70 names of possible candidates, when suddenly I found one man who worked for the exact company mentioned. Time froze for a second - was this the family? I knew from the court records the birth mother was born after 1940, but she had a couple siblings who were born before then. I jumped over to the 1940 census, found the family and everything fit. PERFECTLY. The ages, the genders, the address, all of it. I couldn't believe it - the whole thing took less than two hours!

I kept searching, and found a high school yearbook for the birth mother's school. She and the birth father had met in high school, and after looking through the high school yearbooks on Ancestry for that town, I was able to find their full names, and obtain senior pictures of both of them. I also found obituaries for them both (sadly they had had both passed away some years ago), which gave the names of half-siblings on both sides. I couldn't believe it!

I wrote a report of the search, compiled all the pictures, and handed them over the next day. Pretty soon, my coworker contacted me, saying she had located and contacted half-siblings on both sides, and was readily accepted by both sides of her family. That was the best news of all. You always wonder how that phone call will go - will they be expecting you? Will they even believe you? It was just awesome to hear about how well everything went for her. In all the research I've done over the years, this stands out in my absolute favorite experiences in genealogy.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I'm back!

After a three-month hiatus, I have returned to blogging! It's been tough finding the time to blog, in between three jobs, three kids, and myriad other responsibilities. When push comes to shove, you have to do what puts food on the table first, right?

But now that things have finally slowed down, I can get back to some serious blogging about my research. I have some exciting plans for 2018! Here are a few of them:

1. Rootstech! I can't overstate how excited I am to be attending Rootstech for the first time next week. Five days of genealogy, DNA, the Family History Library, old friends, and maybe even some food and sleep. Aaaaah! :)

2. Jamboree in June. This makes fourth or fifth year in a row that I've attended Jamboree, and the first year I've attended more than one major conference in a year. I'm super grateful that my wife is willing to help me get to both of these conferences this year.

3. Big genealogy goals - I have two major genealogy goals that I want to accomplish this year.
a. Identify the biological father of Bettye Harris. I've put this off for a few years, while I've dug into other projects, but this year, I want to finally tackle this one.
b. Identify the slaves held by Lewis and Lucinda (Berry) Harris. I've wondered for years what became of them after emancipation. I know where the Harrises lived in 1860, so I'm gonna jump into the area's records and see if I can track any of them down. Family lore says some, if not all, followed them up to Montana. We'll just see about that. :)

4. Continue my professional research. I have absolutely LOVED doing genealogy professionally. I have learned and stretched a lot this last year, and I still have a long ways to go. I need to polish my writing skills, and push myself to make better use of my clients' time.

5. Blog more. I have made some really interesting discoveries, both professionally and personally, and want to share more about them here. I think I need to work on shorter blog posts. I tend to ramble a lot, and when I don't have the time to sit down and write down everything I want to say, I just don't do it. In this case, less would be more - less lenghty posts = more posts in general. Don't want to have to take another 3 month break from blogging.

So yeah, 2018 is looking very exciting! What are your plans for this year? Have you made any awesome discoveries already? Let me know!