Wordless Wednesday: Nancy Rogers with Curly Hair

Today’s Wordless Wednesday post is this photo of my paternal grandmother, Nancy Jean Rogers.  She looks to be around 4 years old in this picture so it was likely taken around 1928 and likely in Washington state (probably the Seattle or Tacoma area).  I just love this picture of her because her hair is so curly and she just looks so happy and cute.

Young Nancy Rogers with curly hair

Nancy Jean Rogers was born on December 13, 1924 in Washington state to George Monroe Rogers and Julia Margaret Morris.  She grew up in the Tacoma area.  She later married Herbert Hoover Dugger and had four kids.  She died after years of dementia on 10 May 2002 in Torrance, Los Angeles, California.


Happy 56th Birthday Mom

Today would have been my mom’s 56th birthday.

Celebrating my mom’s birthday and her life has always been a difficult task for me since her passing  because she has two opposing sides to her.  It has been a struggle to find a way to balance telling both sides to this story.

Everyone can remember my mom as the intelligent, adventurous, giving, full of life person that she was.  She loved the beach and road trips.  She was quick witted and always able to make people laugh.  She was the first to volunteer to set up for a party and always willing to help people who were struggling.  She never went to college but read every book she could get her hands on – and in turn, she developed this wealth of knowledge on everything from history to art to religion to geography.

Sharon is getting reading to parasail in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Sharon is getting reading to parasail in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during a family vacation in the 1980s.

Sharon cuddling with a cat.

Sharon was always a lover of animals.

This is my favorite photo of my mom.  She always made this face when she was

This is my favorite photo of my mom. She always made this face when she was concentrating on a conversation.

Mom and I in a paddle boat on Lake Martha in Washington.

Mom and I in a paddle boat on Lake Martha in Washington.

The best picture of Mom and I.

The best picture of Mom and I.

There was another side to my mom though.  My mom was a drug addict and an alcoholic.  She became those things because she was constantly looking for an escape from her depression, anxiety, and anger.  This constant search for an escape is what led to us losing her: her alcoholism caused liver failure and her body began to shut down.  Although she passed away on February 28, 2010, I always say that I lost my mother way before.  The alcohol took over and the intelligent, adventurous, giving, funny woman that I knew disappeared.

On her birthday, I  remember my mom as the woman who always had her nose in a book.  I remember her as the woman who loved to fix up old pieces of furniture to make them look new again.  I remember her as the woman who loved camping and beach days and road trips to anywhere.  I remember her as the woman willing to give her time and money to help those around her.  I remember her as the woman who always stressed doing the right thing, even when it was scary or hard.  I remember her as someone who loved to laugh and enjoyed the company of good friends.

And those are the things I miss the most.

She was special.

She was one of a kind.

She was my mom.

Happy birthday, Mom.



Jamboree 2015: My Friday Classes

Southern California Genealogical Society’s Annual Jamboree conference is this week!  I am so excited and I absolutely cannot wait to see everyone.  This year’s conference looks amazing and I want to share some of the classes that I plan on attending each day.

Of course, the plan could change as my plans at conferences often do.  I might decide to wander around the exhibit hall or just chat with some people.  This is a conference where I get to connect with old friends and make some new ones.

Here are the classes I plan on watching on Friday:

  • The Jones Jinx: Tracing Common Surnames by Dr. Thomas Jones at 2:30 in Pavillion 1.  With all of my Rogers, Franks, and Morris lines – I need this class!  Plus, it is the amazing Tom Jones doing the class – ya really can’t go wrong!
  • Methods for Identifying the German Origins of American Immigrants by Michael D. Lacopo at 2:30 in Academy 3.  This one is at the same time as the Jones one so I’m not sure if I will make it…. but with all my German ancestors, I really sure.  Plus, Michael is a great speaker!
  • Debunking Misleading Records by Dr. Thomas Jones at 5:30 in Pavillion 2.  I always like to take analysis classes and this definitely falls into the category.

What classes are you planning on taking on Friday?


Jamboree! Jamboree! Jamboree 2015!

Hello people of the genea-sphere!  It has been so long since we have chatted!  I have been the usual amount of busy teaching my first graders and have reached a new level of tired called end-of-the-year-teacher-tired.  Just as I am on the countdown until the end of the year, I am also on the countdown until Jamboree!

The Southern California Genealogy Society’s Jamboree conference in Burbank, California is one of the best on the planet.  Awesome speakers, awesome people, and an all around awesome good time.  This year will be a little different for me as well; I won’t be speaking or working the conference AT ALL.  That leaves even more time to chat it up with my favorite people, run around the exhibit hall, shove all sorts of knowledge into my brain, and fan-girl like crazy over the fact that I will be seeing Dr. Tom Jones.

fangirling minions

Dr. Tom Jones is the co-editor of the NGS Quarterly and the author of Mastering the Genealogical Proof Standard.  In other words: He is a genealogy super star to the max.

Let us all pray that I don’t end up looking like a babbling, giggling idiot in his presence.  Cause that is entirely a possibility.

fangirling Taylor Swift

Anyway…. I’ve already downloaded the app and planned out some of the classes I really want to attend.  There is so much awesomeness going on that it is hard to narrow down the list of classes I want to attend, things I want to do, and people I want to meet.

So I’m curious – are you going to Jamboree?  Cause I wanna meet you!


Why Researching Your Ancestor’s FAN Club is Important

I am on spring break, people!  Oh my goodness, it feels so good to get back to researching the ancestors.  I don’t seem to get a lot of time to research or blog these days because my little first graders keep me incredibly busy these days.  I love being a teacher but I definitely miss the research time.

But now that spring break is here, I have been researching like crazy!  I seem to have two different research projects going on but both boil down to one thing: researching and documenting my ancestor’s FAN club.

Left to Right: Joseph Gratzer, Grace (Frank) Palmer, Nancy Jean Rogers (my grandmother), and John N. Morris (my 2x-great grandfather).  This photo was likely taken in the Seattle or Tacoma, Washington area.  These people are all extended family of my grandmother, an only child.  Researching these people led me to a distant cousin with all of these photos - and now they belong to me!

Left to Right: Joseph Gratzer, Grace (Frank) Palmer, Nancy Jean Rogers (my grandmother), and John N. Morris (my 2x-great grandfather). This photo was likely taken in the Seattle or Tacoma, Washington area. These people are all extended family of my grandmother, an only child. Researching these people led me to a distant cousin with all of these photos – and now they belong to me!

FAN stands for friends, associates, and neighbors – pretty much the people in your ancestor’s lives.  So often we get suck thinking of our ancestors are islands in history – but the truth is, they interacted with all sorts of people.  Researching those FANs might shed new light on an ancestor or give you the missing piece to break through a brick wall.

Right now, my focus as been on documenting two specific families: My Harney line is a brick wall with my immigrant ancestor – although I have lots of documents for his life in the U.S., I have been stuck with his life in Germany.  My hope is that by doing more FAN research, I can narrow down more information about him and find him in Germany and extend that line back further.  My Dugger line is a bit of a mess when it gets back to my 5x-great grandparents, John Dugger and Mary Engle.  Together, they had 20 kids.  While many people have researched this line, there is so much junk out there about this family.  My goal is to break through some brick walls and find more solid evidence by researching the FAN club.

I’ve broken through brick walls by researching the FAN club.  With enough research on my ancestor and their FAN club, maybe I will break through another one.


Tracking “Maybe Ancestors” in OneNote

If you have been reading my blog for a long time, you know that I am a Microsoft OneNote junkie.  One of my favorite ways to use OneNote for genealogy is to use it to track my “maybe ancestors”.  Maybe ancestors are those people that *might* be an ancestor but you just don’t have enough evidence to know for sure.  Maybe ancestors can also be cases where you think you might have found your ancestor is a certain record, but you aren’t convinced that the person is the record is your ancestor.  In these cases, I want to keep track of all the research I’ve done on these people but I don’t want that information connected in my RootsMagic tree just yet.  So what do I do?  I stick it in OneNote.

All I do is create a page in OneNote and start adding.  What do I add?  I always add the conversation going on inside my head (my analysis), the source (not in Evidence Explained style, but enough that I can find the source again), and tables to sort out the data I find.  I have use one page for each research question I’m trying to answer.

OneNote Maybe Ancestor Example


Because OneNote lets me add images, tables, text, and drawing to a page, it is the perfect tool to help me track my maybe ancestors.  Plus, it is all saved in the cloud so I can access it from my laptop, phone, and the internet.  What more can a girl ask for in a research tool?


Going Against the Tide: Finding the Evidence

When I was 12 and my aunt was tagging me along on her genealogy adventures, I didn’t really realize that I was falling in love with this hobby.  I was just armed with a throw-away camera (remember those?) and a list of names to look for.  I looked for them in cemeteries and books in the library.  I didn’t really know what I was doing or what I was looking for, but I was definitely building the start of a long, rewarding, purpose-filled, insanity-causing journey in discovering my family’s history.  I had no idea that all that time stomping around the mountains and back woods of Elizabethton, Tennessee (a completely different atmosphere and community than what I was used to back home in Los Angeles) would have me hooked for life.

In Elizabethton – I’m pretty much related to everybody in some way.  I remember my grandpa telling me that I should be grateful I don’t go there for high school because I would be “kissing cousins” at all the dances.  It is the type of place where people sit around in the evening and listen while the eldest talks about the family stories and the family line.  The stories generally have some spice added to them and there is always plenty ancestral gossip about criminal activity and love affairs and drunken quarrels.  And generally, people don’t really question it – they all just kind of assume it is all true or mostly true.

And when people start doing their research in this area, they just take what the county history book says as fact too.  The county history book is full of these stories from the elders – people submitted them when the book was published.  And initially, I copied my tree from here.

But a few years ago, I started my whole tree over – I had decided that having a smaller, well-sourced tree was better than having a few thousand person tree with very little source material.  I put all of my previous work in binders and started over.

The good news: I’ve been able to find a lot of evidence to support parts of those family lines and some of the family stories have become more believable as the ancestors are mapped out.  But I have hit snags where I just couldn’t prove the connection between child and suspected parent – so I just didn’t enter it into my database.  And I kept not adding them to my database for years.  I would see these names over and over in my research but just wouldn’t add them to my database unless I could find that evidence-based connection.

In the last week, I think I finally found the solution that works for me: I add them to my database as an unlinked individual.  It just makes sense to still collect all this evidence I have for John Potter in my database because at some point, it might serve useful and it might help me some day “see” something that I didn’t see before that would finally link John Potter as the father of Peter Potter.

How do you handle those people you have research on but can’t fully prove you have a connection to?


Why I Did a Genealogy Do-Over

Earlier this month, Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers announced the Genealogy Do-Over.  He has decided to start his genealogy research from scratch in 2015.

A few years ago, I got to that same place.  I had started genealogy like most people started – just name collecting and pulling from online trees all over the internet.  But around 2008, I started to learn about analyzing sources and data and research methodologies.  So I began adding sources to my database and sometimes changing my conclusions based on the new sources and analysis I had done.

And then around 2009 and 2010, I came to the conclusion that my database was a mess.  I didn’t really have source citations included and there really was no consistency for place names or notes.  Most of my citations were a mess – not very clear and not in any sort of consistent formatting.  I was discovering that more and more of my previously copied “work” was not right.  And being the type-A personality that I am, the mess got to me.

So I started over.  I put all of my binders aside and all of my digital files in a holding folder and started over.  I started entering information in a consistent format and attempting to put my sources in Evidence Explained format (not always done perfectly, but close enough).  I was more consistently downloading the documents I was finding online and trying to really build my database and digital filing system without any major holes.

Starting your family tree all over again can be a daunting task, but it can also be a very rewarding experience. Photo courtesy of Kim Daniel of Unsplash.com

Starting your family tree all over again can be a daunting task, but it can also be a very rewarding experience.
Photo courtesy of Kim Daniel of Unsplash.com

Has the size of my database shrinked considerably?  Oh yes.  I generally don’t spend a lot of time on collateral ancestors anymore unless I am trying to break through a brick wall or feel like I have already gotten all the easy, low hanging fruit stuff.

Is my database perfect?  No.  Not even close.  But it is a lot better than it was and it is always a work in progress.  As my genealogical expertise improves, so does my database.

So for me…. it was worth it.  What about you?  Will you be joining in the genealogy do-over.


What Teaching First Graders Has Taught Me About Genealogy

It has been SO long since I have written a blog post.  The reason?  I have been teaching first graders at a charter school in Inglewood, California.  I have been up to my forehead in teaching stuff since I was hired in August.  In the last couple of months, my first graders have taught me a few things about genealogy:

1.) Family are the people that love you.  One of our mini-units in Social Studies right now is talking about our families and our communities.  So we have read books about different types of families and done all sorts of sharing about the people in our own families.  Time and time again, my little firsties made it clear that their families consist of the people that love them.  We did an assignment in which the kids drew pictures of their families and wrote a sentence about the people in the picture.  Very few students listed just Mom, Dad, and siblings.  In fact, nearly every kid had a grandparent or great-grandparent, an older cousin, step parents, half-siblings, aunts and uncles, and all sorts of different relationships listed as well.  Some kids even asked me if they could use two pages of paper to show the different family dynamics.

I loved having the kids write about their families, but it became clear that the current, traditional pedigree and family group sheet model used in genealogy will not work here.  These forms do not accurately show half siblings, step siblings, and other important family relationships.  If the form isn’t relevant to them, they won’t use it… so imagine in 10 years when these kids walk into a genealogy society and are handed a traditional pedigree or family group sheet?  They will turn around, walk out, and probably not think about their genealogy again for a long time.

2.) Kids have zero concept of time, space, or geography.  This week, we did a mini-unit on heroes.  Each day, the special helper of the day gets to pick a book from our themed basic for me to read aloud on the carpet.  On Monday, one of my adorable little kiddos picked a book about Abraham Lincoln for us to read.  We read little snippets about how Abraham Lincoln was our 16th president and was president during the Civil War.  We talked about how he grew up in a log cabin in Illinois and was a lawyer before he was president.  We talked about how he freed the slaves and how he now has a giant statue of him in Washington, D.C. to memorialize him.

“Can we go see the statue for a field trip?”  “No, sweetheart.  We would have to get on a plane to do that.”

“Can he come visit us?”  “President Lincoln?  No, remember, he was president a long, long time ago and he has been dead for a long time.”

“Can we go visit President Obama?”  “No, that isn’t really how it works.”

Bottom line: Make it concrete for them.  I created a timeline for them and we studied maps so that I could try to make it more concrete for them.  But at this age, they just don’t have that sense of time, space, and geography down yet.  Keep this in mind when you tell family stories to the little ones – try to make it concrete.  Use pictures, maps, timelines, and actual objects to help these kids understand the family stories you tell.

3.) They L-O-V-E to be helpers.  My first graders LOVE it when I give them a job – from sharpening pencils, sorting, cleaning, dumping trash, anything.  They are just so eager to please.  So why not put that to use?  Give them a camera and have them take photos at cemeteries.  Have them cut the grass and pull the weeds near grave stones.  Have them wear white gloves and put pictures in archival envelopes or sleeves.  Just about anything – yes, it will take them a long time to do it and you might even have to redo the whole job yourself when they are done, but in the process, you just taught the kids that genealogy and family history is fun and important work.  Besides, you are building memories for them to pass down to their families.

4.) First graders argue the same way people do in genealogy groups on Facebook.  Daily – no, HOURLY, I deal with random little arguments that break out: “But I wanted that color blue.  Not this color blue.”  “Stop holding all the crayons!”  “But I wanted to use that glue stick!”  It is always over the same things every. single. day.

In the genealogy groups on Facebook, the arguments are often the same too: “I don’t think I should have to pay to do genealogy!”  “Why is so-and-so stealing information on MY great-great-great ancestor!?”  “I deserve a refund because Ancestry.com is down!”  “Who is the father of John Smith!  Why isn’t anyone telling me anything?!”  The same arguments, every. single. day.


Alright-y then… back to the grading!  Hope you all have enjoyed my analysis on he similarities between genealogy and teaching first graders.  Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!


Why Collaborative Genealogy is Super Cool

I remember being 12 years old, walking around a rural cemetery somewhere along the border of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.  It was a hot summer day and we had driven round and round up a mountain, and then walked up a long drive way to get here.  My aunt, the genealogist in the family at the time, was so excited to finally see this cemetery.  My cousin, a year younger than I, was incredibly furious that we were spending the day in the middle of nowhere at a cemetery.  My job was to take the pictures while my aunt wrote down the names of the stone.  My cousin’s job was to cut the grass and overgrown bushes so I could get a decent photo with my throw away camera.

Afterwards, we drove through some more mountains and hills to get to an elderly woman’s house.  I don’t really remember who she was, but she knew my grandfather when he was a child and remembered my great-grandparents.  We sat uncomfortably on her plastic covered couch while she told stories of life in rural North Carolina in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.  She talked about my great-grandmother contracting tuberculosis and being sent to a special home for tuberculosis patients and never really being seen again.  She talked about how my great-grandfather remarried not long after, mainly so that there was someone to raise his children, and how all of these events led to my grandfather becoming a rebellious child and teenager.

It was on this day that I was bitten by the genealogy bug.  From the start, my journey in finding my family roots was a collaborative one.  Without the help of my aunt, the elderly lady, and many other distant cousins that guided us to the cemetery in the first place, we wouldn’t have found this information.  Discovering this information was a collaborative effort.

So what is collaborative genealogy: It is working together to find genealogical information, answer genealogical questions, and solve genealogical problems.  I would argue that all of us, at one time or another, have collaborated with someone in their genealogy research.

Here are some reasons why I think collaborative genealogy is super cool:

  • No one person knows everything.  There is always more to learn when it comes to genealogy.  Collaborating with experts in an area you are researching can help answer some of the ancestral questions you have.
  • Two minds think better than one.  Sometimes, talking it out with another researcher can help you think of a new way to break through that brick wall.
  • You never know who inherited the family Bible, only photo of the Civil War veteran, or old family letters.

But there are some things to keep in mind when collaborating with someone else:

  • Always ask for permission before using another researcher’s work and always give credit where credit is due.
  • Never assume someone else’s research is the gospel truth.  Confirm it for yourself and see if the conclusion makes sense.
  • Respect intellectual property rights and copyright law.  For a good guide on this, I highly suggest the Legal Genealogist Blog – Judy G. Russell is amazing.
  • Don’t go sharing or publishing (even on an online website) on living individuals.  Always be careful about respecting the privacy of others and be aware that family stories can sometimes be painful for living individuals.
  • Always cite your sources.  Let me say that again…. just in case you didn’t hear me: Cite. your. sources.  And explain your reasoning.

What have been your experiences with collaborative genealogy?