Thank You, Roy G. Biv

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Test tubes and other recipients in chemistry lab

Photo by Horia Varlan. Used under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license. No changes were made.

My high school chemistry lab violated the laws of time. Two periods of chemistry class lasted years. Every day, I expected to walk out of the lab and find that the school had crumbled around us, swept away by the eons that had passed while we were in that class.

I enjoy science. Chemistry could have been an enjoyable class. It should have been an enjoyable class.

It was not an enjoyable class.

The teacher had a way of droning on and on…. and on. He also had a remarkable talent for making students feel particularly stupid. He would ask very pointed questions — often off topic — and would get a smug, yet gleeful, look on his face when the poor kid didn’t get it right.

The room had two long lab tables with black countertops and cheap built-in storage underneath. Each table had stations with sinks and burners. We sat at desks that were attached to the lab tables. I sat about 4 seats back.

One day, the teacher was droning on and on…. and on… about something. I may or may not have been talking to the kid sitting across from me. Suddenly, there was the shortest of pauses in the droning, followed by a much louder, “And we all know the colors of the spectrum in order, don’t we, Amy?”

Suddenly, every pair of eyes in the class were on me.

Some part of my brain must have been paying attention to the droning. Without missing a beat, I looked up and responded, “Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.”

My chemistry teacher didn’t quite know how to react, especially since it wasn’t a topic even close to what we had covered in class. All he could muster was, “Yes. Very good,” and returned to his droning.

The bell rang at the end of the first period and the class got up for our 4-minute respite before the second epoch of chemistry class. As I was walking out to get a drink of water, the teacher pulled me aside.

“How did you know the order?” he asked me in a rather puzzled tone.

“My dad taught me ‘Roy G. Biv’ – the name is the colors in order.”

My teacher shook his head. “Wow, I didn’t think anyone remembered Roy G. Biv.”

My dad remembered and he taught me. On that day in my junior year of high school, I was very thankful for Roy G. Biv.

Rainbow in northern Michigan

Roy G. Biv in action. Northern Michigan, October 2014. Photo by Amy Crow.

52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 8 Recap

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52ancestors-2015-08Genealogy is a creative pursuit. You have to take bits and pieces from different things and try to see how they all fit. It’s also creative in expression. Some people blog, others record videos, some write journals to share with family members.

So it is with the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Patti Elliott Di Loreto doesn’t blog, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking the challenge. She’s doing it via a Pinterest board. The Vernon & District Family History Society in Canada is having a different member of the society write a profile each week. What a neat project!

Here are some of the posts that struck me this past week (just some — there’s no way to list them all!) Lynda at Timelines and Stories told about her cousin who was a nurse in World War I and traveled across the country to get married. Cara Jensen at Sherlock Homes tried to see if there was any truth to the family legend about an ancestor’s photo with Joseph Smith. (Yes, that Joseph Smith!) Beth Gatlin of So Many Ancestors explained the good deeds of some helpful genealogists — and the good deeds that yielded results!

My 52 Ancestors post this week was “Mary and Rebecca Ramsey and the Good Deed of Their Father.” It’s a short lesson in how an ancestor’s poor planning can actually work to our benefit.

Who did you write about this week? Leave a comment with a link to your post. Also, be sure to go back and read some of the posts from Week 7. There are some wonderful stories just waiting to be read!


Upcoming Themes:

5 Misspelled, Misused Genealogy Words… and How to Get Them Right

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Our ancestors tended to be…. shall we say…. “creative” spellers. When we’re indexing or transcribing, we need to preserve that. But when it comes to our own words, we’re supposed to get it right.

There are some words in genealogy that trip up everyone. Here are three words that I often see misspelled, along with two pairs of words that are often mixed up — and how I keep them straight in my mind. (Note: I’m not claiming that my methods are particularly witty or poetic, just that they help me remember!)

5 Misspelled, Misused Genealogy Words and How to Get Them RightWant to use this on your blog? Click here to download it. Just make sure the bottom part of the graphic is visible. Having a link back to here would be great, too ;)

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Mary and Rebecca Ramsey and the Good Deed of Their Father (52 Ancestors #8)

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John Ramsey died in Ohio in 1810, leaving his widow, Elizabeth, several children, and some land. John also died without a will. While that was poor planning on John’s part, it actually turns out to be good for his descendants (like me).

When someone who owned land dies without a will, the estate needs to take into account all of the heirs so that the land can either be divided among them or sold to another party. Truth be told, you’re sometimes better off having an ancestor die without a will. If he leaves a will, he doesn’t need to name all of his children in it. Die without a will and all of the heirs are going to be listed somewhere.

And so it was with John Ramsey. After his death, his widow, Elizabeth, wanted to divide and sell the land. At the time in Ohio, the heirs of the estate would have had to go through a partition suit, where the administrator of the estate would sue the heirs in order to divide it. I haven’t found the partition suit yet, but the resulting deeds shed light on who the heirs were.

Top of Perry County, Ohio deed book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder's Office.

Top of Perry County, Ohio deed book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder’s Office.

I won’t make you try to read the beginning of the deed. Here’s a transcription:

“Know all men by these presents that I Elizabeth Ramsey Widow and relict of John Ramsey late of Hopewell Township in the County then of Fairfield now Perry deceased and also assignee of Samuel Ramsey John Ramsey and James Ramsey three of the heirs at Law of said John Ramsey deceased and we Robert Fulerton [sic] and Rebecca his wife and Andrew McBride and Mary his wife (which said Rebecca Fullerton and Mary McBride are also children and heirs at law of said John Ramsey deceased) to Elizabeth Ramsey in hand paid…”1)Ramsey deed, Perry County Deed Book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder’s Office, New Lexington, Ohio.

A Quick Note About Heirs

“Heir” does NOT necessarily mean “child of.” It means someone who is legally entitled to inherit from an estate. If you write a will, you decide who your heirs are. If you die without a will, the probate laws in effect in your state will determine who the heirs are.

HeirUnderstanding the Probate Laws

How do we know how the heirs of an estate are? If there’s a will, you have to depend on the testator (the person leaving the will) to spell it out. If there isn’t a will, then you need to understand the laws of probate at the time when your ancestor died. Ohio researchers are fortunate that the Ohio Genealogical Society has published two books that cover the laws of the state through 1831. (Abstracts and Extracts of the Legislative Acts and Resolutions of the State of Ohio: 1803-1821 and …1821-1831.)

A law in 1804 (still in effect in 1810) provided that “if the estate came not be descent, devise or deed of gift, but was acquired by purchase, by the intestate, it shall descent to the children of the intestate and their legal representatives” and “…where one or more of them [children of the intestate] are dead and one or more living, the issue of those dead shall have a right to partition, and such issue, in such chase, shall take per stirpes, that is to say, the share of their deceased parents.” If the intestate had no children, then “the estate shall pass to the brothers and sisters of the intestate of the whole blood, and their legal representatives.”2)Mary L. Bowman, Abstracts and Extracts of the Legislative Acts and Resolutions of the State of Ohio: 1803-1821 (Mansfield: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1994), p. 44.

Long story short: if the intestate had children, those children are his heirs. Also, the children of any of his deceased children are his heirs. Only if the intestate didn’t have children would the heirs be his siblings.

What This Means for the Heirs of John Ramsey

First, John Ramsey purchased the land in question; that puts the law of descent listed above into effect. Samuel Ramsey, John Ramsey, and James Ramsey were named in the deed as heirs at law of John Ramsey, deceased. Rebecca Fullerton and Mary McBride were named as “children and heirs at law” of John Ramsey, deceased.

Since Mary and Rebecca were children, then the other heirs (Samuel, John, and James) had to have been either sons or grandsons of John Ramsey. They couldn’t have been brothers or nephews.

All from a deed.

Land was important to our ancestors. Since it mattered to them, it should matter to us, because it created some great records. The effort it takes to go through land records is soooo worth it.

References   [ + ]

1. Ramsey deed, Perry County Deed Book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder’s Office, New Lexington, Ohio.
2. Mary L. Bowman, Abstracts and Extracts of the Legislative Acts and Resolutions of the State of Ohio: 1803-1821 (Mansfield: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1994), p. 44.

State of the Genealogy Industry: An Infographic

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Recently, GenealogyInTime put together their annual “state of the genealogy industry” stats, with the “Top 100 Genealogy Websites.” I have to admit that, while I tend to be a numbers geek, it can be a lot to wade through. Crestleaf took GenealogyInTime’s data and made an infographic out of it. Take a look:


Anything surprising to you?

Stories at FGS / RootsTech, or, Why I’m Not Brandishing a Pitchfork

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It’s been almost a week since the end of RootsTech and FGS 2015. After suffering through delayed flights, adjusting back to my own time zone, and battling to keep the pipes in the house from freezing solid, I’ve finally had a chance to put some thoughts together.

(This is beyond the “genealogy conferences as group therapy” thought that I had earlier this week.)

Part of the FGS / RootsTech 2015 Expo Hall. Photo by Amy Crow.

Part of the FGS / RootsTech 2015 Expo Hall. Photo by Amy Crow.

The Stories… and the Pushback

As Randy Seaver pointed out in his FGS/RootsTech recap, there were a LOT of vendors focusing on stories. Even the winner of the Innovator Summit has a product based around recording family stories. (BTW, some people seem to have the wrong impression of StoryWorth. It isn’t recording only via phone calls; that’s just one way to record them. But I digress.)

I heard some pushback while I was in Salt Lake and I’ve seen comments on various social media channels. “That’s not genealogy.” “Where was all of the research stuff?” “You’d think this was a storytelling conference instead of a genealogy conference.”

On The Intrepid Sleuth blog, she (sorry — couldn’t find your name!) stated:

The majority of the tech community seems far more interested in the latest rage, “story capturing”, and are busy developing entertaining, social based, game-like, story capturing and sharing apps that memorialize not the past so much as present day family events. They do not see a market for anything supportive of the serious family researcher. This is sad. What’s even sadder is that the core genealogist community is not up in arms over this. I have a pitchfork, who’s with me?

(Not picking on you, Intrepid Sleuth. Just quoting you because it summed up a lot of what I heard and read during and after the conferences. And I totally agree with you about the need to clean the Salt Palace Convention Center. I’d add that they also need better signage.)

Here’s Why I Don’t Have a Pitchfork

Pitchfork, by Julussugla. Used under Creative Commons license 3.0

Pitchfork, by Julussugla. Used under Creative Commons license 3.0

First, a bit of background. I’ve been “doing” genealogy for a LONG time. I’ve been a Certified Genealogist since 1995. You might call me a “serious” researcher — and you’d be right. I do take my research seriously. But I didn’t start this way.

It started with my grandma’s stories. It evolved as I learned more and wanted to make more discoveries — to learn more about my ancestors than what Grandma knew.

There’s room for a lot of players and a lot of viewpoints in the genealogy world. The finalists in the Innovator Summit included a company that is working on reading handwriting to index old records. There was also a company that wants to match people with research problems with the genealogists who can help solve them.

The exhibit hall was filled with the “big guys” in the genealogy world, right along with “mom and pop” operations with hand-lettered signs. There were high-tech things and there were decidedly low-tech things. There were even things that didn’t specifically relate to genealogy. (I’ll admit right here that I had a serious case of lens envy every time I passed the Nikon booth.) People were visiting all of them.

Not only is there space for everyone, I have a selfish reason for being more than ok with those who focus on stories. I got my start with the family stories and it sparked a passion in me. That passion grew and I learned more and more and have made some wonderful discoveries about my family. I’ve had opportunities to learn from others who have had the same experience. I want more people to get that spark, to feel that sense of wonder and curiosity. Why? Not only because it will make our community stronger, but because perhaps one of them will be a cousin and will want to share those stories with me.

What are your thoughts?

52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 7 Recap

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 7Week 7, 2015 style, was certainly a hectic one. FGS 2015. RootsTech. Travel to and from said FGS and RootsTech, Meeting friends, old and new. And, oh yeah, a little bit of research and writing mixed in for good measure.

It was wonderful seeing so many of you in Salt Lake City. I hope to meet more of you in the coming weeks as Genealogy Conference Season heats up. I hope that’s literally “heats up,” as I’m really tired of below zero temps here in central Ohio! (You can check out my take on FGS/RootsTech here. Note: It’s more than just the records.)

The theme for Week 7 was “Love.” (What else would you expect in the week that has Valentine’s Day?) Karen Field Busch of took the opportunity to explain the wedding photo that’s at the top of her blog. (Though the site is in German, there is a “translate” option on the right-hand side of the page.) Kerryn Taylor of AncestorChasing told the tale of her husband’s Catholic ancestor who went against convention and married a Protestant girl.

Remember that the themes each week are optional. You don’t have to use them. Vera Marie Badertscher of Ancestors in Aprons wrote about how she made a breakthrough in researching her great-grandfather Joseph Kaser. Check it out — she has some great tips in there.

My contribution this week was my great-great-grandfather Eber Johnson. I took a look at some concrete ways that the Civil War affected his life, especially how it changed the kind of farming he did.

So bundle up, leave a comment with the name of the ancestor you wrote about in Week 7, and a link to your post. While your at it, take a look at the entries from Week 6. It’ll make you forget all about the cold.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Week 7 themeUpcoming Themes:

  • Week 8 (Feb 19-25) – Good Deeds
  • Week 9 (Feb 26 – Mar 4) – Close to Home
  • March themes

Eber Johnson and the Effects of War (52 Ancestors #7)

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This is not Eber Johnson. (I wish I had a photo of him!) But this photo makes me think about what life was like after the war. (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.)

This is not Eber Johnson. (I wish I had a photo of him!) But this photo makes me think about what life was like after the war. (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.)

Eber Johnson was not a rich man. Sober and industrious, he was a veteran of the 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery. Though he served in the Civil War for less than a year, those months took a toll on him. According to John Murnahan’s affidavit in Eber’s pension application, “Since his return from the U.S. service he is still a sober man but unable to perform any manual labor to amount to anything.”

Eber, my great-great-grandfather, was a farmer, which means that the 1860 and 1870 agricultural schedules can shed some light on how Eber made his living before and after the Civil War.

In 1860, Eber primarily raised Indian corn, oats, and wheat. He didn’t have much livestock: 2 horses, 2 cows, 4 sheep and 11 swine. Compared to his immediate neighbors1)Compared to 3 households on either side of him in the agriculture census., he was just about average.

By 1870, things had changed. He had more cattle (7 heads of “other”), more sheep (up to 18), and a brand new crop: $150 worth of orchard goods. His value of “homemade manufacturers” went up as well; it was $10 in 1860, but $70 in 1870.

Could this shift toward more reliance on livestock and homemade products be a result of being disabled in the war? Were orchard goods grown because they would be easier — less physically demanding — to raise year after year?

Eber Johnson died January 25 18942)Per his Civil War pension file. and is buried in Locust Grove Cemetery in Lawrence County, Ohio3)FindAGrave memorial. Also have personally visited his grave. You can read more about his experiences in the Civil War here.

1860 agriculture schedule

Part of the header of the left-hand page of the 1860 agriculture schedule.

References   [ + ]

1. Compared to 3 households on either side of him in the agriculture census.
2. Per his Civil War pension file.
3. FindAGrave memorial. Also have personally visited his grave.

Genealogy Conferences as Group Therapy

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Organizers of genealogy conferences will mislead you. Why they do this, I don’t know. They’ll tell you that the best reasons to come to their event are the education and the networking. Don’t let them fool you. The best reason to go is that it is the best group therapy a genealogist can get.

I just got back from the Federation of Genealogical Societies / RootsTech conferences. It was big. It was crowded. It was noisy. At times, it was insane. And I wouldn’t have missed it.

Before the Thursday keynote at RootsTech/FGS 2015.

Before the Thursday keynote at RootsTech / FGS 2015. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)

Don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot of good genealogical “stuff” last week. From Judy Russell, I learned about federal court records. (Now to find my ancestor’s bankruptcy case…) Tammy Hepps of Treelines inspired me to think about research from a story perspective. (I have to give a shout out to anyone who loves “footnote surfing” as much as I do!)

And there’s also the 1790 marriage record of my 4th-great-grandparents John Douglass and Susannah Howey that I found at the Family History Library. (Score!)

But a genealogy conference is so much more than the knowledge that you gain.

Amy Crow and Amy Coffin, RootsTech, 2015

The Amys, RootsTech / FGS 2015. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)

What stands out to me after every genealogy event I go to are the conversations. I had a great time with several friends over dinner at the Blue Iguana. While there, we basically solved all of the world’s ills and convinced each other that we are not insane. I had some amazing conversations with Amy Coffin of The We Tree Genealogy Blog. (Though that should go without saying. What else would you expect from another librarian, genealogist, and blogger named Amy?!)

There were the random exchanges with those around me as we waiting for sessions to start — or waiting in line for the ladies’ room. (Believe me, we often had plenty of time to talk then!) It was a mix of sharing ideas for research, feeling joy for someone’s latest discovery, and feeling inspired to continue your own journey.

That’s what I think is the greatest benefit of attending a genealogy event in person — it’s the interaction with those who understand us. We can talk about our research and not have the other person’s eyes glaze over. We can do the Genealogy Happy Dance and not have weird looks thrown our way. We can come away feeling inspired…  Inspired not only with ideas for furthering our research, but also inspired that what we do is important.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy webinars. I love a good blog post. But with every conference I go to — whether it is a HUGE conference like RootsTech, or a smaller event like the Ohio Genealogical Society or the Indiana Genealogical Society annual conference — I walk away renewed. Tired, but renewed.

Attending a genealogy conference is one of the best group therapies out there.

Crowd leaving the Thursday keynote, RootsTech/FGS 2015. not every genealogy conference is this big, but you'll find friendly groups at whatever genealogy event you attend.

Crowd leaving the Thursday keynote, RootsTech/FGS 2015. Not every genealogy conference is this big, but you’ll find friendly groups at whatever genealogy event you attend. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)


March 2015 Themes for 52 Ancestors

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Feeling inspired after the RootsTech and FGS conferences last week? I know I am! Let’s keep that good feeling going and look at the March themes for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks:

Week 10 (March 5-11) – Stormy Weather. This is the time of year that the northern hemisphere starts to see severe storms. (As if the blizzards in New England this winter haven’t been bad enough!) What ancestor endured a particularly severe storm? It could be something like a tornado or blizzard or it could be a “storm” of bad things.

Week 11 (March 12-18) – Luck of the Irish. Do you have an ancestor who seemed particularly lucky? Do you have a favorite Irish ancestor? This is their week.

Week 12 (March 19-25) – Same. What ancestor is a lot like you? What ancestor do you have a lot in common? Same name? Same home town?

Week 13 (March 26 – April 1) – Different. What ancestor seems to be your polar opposite? What ancestor did something that seems completely different than what they “should” have done or what you would have done?

The weekly recaps will continue to be posted on Thursdays; you can add your links then. I look forward to seeing your posts!