Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Grandma is a Gift

It's been just a little bit more than half a year since I lost my grandmother Minnie "Bea" Hill McGrath. I am finally getting around to posting what I wrote while I was dealing with her death...
These are happy, beautiful memories, not sad ones, so enjoy!

"Yesterday made one week since I lost my Grandma Bea. I realized that I had been so busy dealing with logistics and supporting my mom and children in their grief, that I had not taken time to process my own.

"My Maw Bea was very special to me. Part of that was for practical reasons... proximity. We lived about a half an hour from her for most of my life. When Isaac was an infant, around the time my Paw Paw, her husband, died, we lived with them. For the past year, mom and Maw Bea lived less than 5 minutes away from our house. We rode our bikes there one Saturday morning.

"The other reasons were less obvious. There's a story I've been wanting to tell that shows this so clearly...

"I was at our house on Center Street. It was mid-afternoon. I don't remember what time of year it was or even if it was before or after Brody's birth. It was getting close to time for David to come home. The time I should've had the living room cleaned up and supper started and the kids and I ready to smile and hug him when he walked in the door. But...

"I was a mess. Still not dressed or even showered. House a disaster. NO idea what to make for dinner. And no clue what I had done all day. I was feeling overwhelmed and desperate. Desperate not to overwhelm and stress out my husband who had been working hard for our family all day. Desperate not to be a failure at my job as a wife and a mom. So I did the only thing I could do in that moment. Not read a blog or phone a friend. I called my grandmother. I cried about how I had wasted the day and how awful I was at taking care of my husband and my home. A disaster as a stay-at-home mom. I had a million things to do and knew for a fact that I couldn't finish. How was I supposed to start on an impossible list???

"I'll never forget her advice to me...

"Go wash your face and put on some lipstick. Then grill some onions in a pan and the whole house will smell like you're cooking something amazing for dinner. When your husband comes home and you look good and the house smells good, he won't be worried about what you did all day. Then... pick ONE thing off your to do list. And do it.

"Nothing profound really. Simple practical advice. But it was perfect. And in that moment I knew. We were the same. She knew just what advice to give me because she had had that same day hundreds of times. A mom. At home alone with a houseful of kids. Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. Just trying to do the right thing for her family and survive till the next day.

"Later in her life, everyone around her saw her gift with children, but that didn't mean she didn't struggle with raising her own. There are so many stories that she shared... Like the time they drove off and left Ricky. How she didn't want to learn to drive in hilly Philadelphia, but Paw Paw told her that she could either learn to drive or be stuck at home with the kids all day. So she did it. How she loved being pregnant, but had to stop cause she kept having to bring babies home every time. The slight bitterness in her voice when she would tell me how blessed I was to have so much family close, because she had been all alone with no one to help her.

"But there were also beautiful examples of her loving sacrifice too. Like how my mom didn't know until she was grown that Maw Bea didn't like fried chicken or spaghetti. She had cooked it every week only because they could afford it and Paw Paw liked it, LOL!"

I was so blessed to spend almost 30 years of my life with my grandmother in it. Towards the end she dealt with depression and memory loss, but through everything, she showed me one important thing. That she loved her family, beautifully.

What Will Your E-Legacy Be?

Years from now when our grandchildren are googling our names to learn more about us (we hope, lol), what will they find? Will they find empty social networking pages or hundreds of negative comments on message boards? Will they find dozens of tagged pictures of us spending time with our friends and family or see our love of gardening through all the links we shared? Will they be inspired by our faith or our activism or will they be ashamed of hate and ignorance? Will they see the slow decline of marriages or the slow recovery from illnesses reflected in posts or the lack there of? Will they find well-documented online family trees with lots of pictures? What will our internet footprint say about who we really were on the inside.

I confess... my e-footprint will show that I love to start things, but have trouble finishing them. Blogs with half a dozen posts in one week followed by months and months of silence. But I keep coming back. Persistence, even if it is slow and erratic, will hopefully shine through. And I can only hope that my descendants will know that when I wasn't sticking with writing or researching or whatever, it was usually because my family needed me. That I didn't let ancestors long dead come before my living, breathing, beautiful family.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How not to RE-Search Your Research

Wanted to let everyone know that I made a mistake. There are miscellaneous editions from 11 other daily or weekly papers for Southwest Louisiana on the American Press ePaper archives site dating back to 1889, NOT starting in 1912! I apologize for not digging deeper and checking my facts before I posted. Now go check it out!

Before we get into search techniques, let me share a great find I made this week.  If you are doing any Lake Charles genealogy or historical research or have research interests anywhere near Southwest Louisiana, then this website isn't just a distracting bright, shiny object.  It is truly a gem.

Fully scanned and word searchable from 1912 to today's paper

I was looking for a good way to practice the search tracking techniques Geneabloggers are discussing for week 4 of the genealogy do-over, so I headed over to the Lake Charles American Press ePaper archives.  At first glance it appeared that a monthly subscription ($10) was needed and that the ePaper began in 2002.  Upon looking further I discovered that I could purchase a "day pass" for $2.95.  Talk about a bargain!!!  That's half what you might spend on your morning Starbucks!

Well, needless to say that was worth it even if it was just for recent searches.  In genealogy, you're supposed to start with current information and work back right?  So my plan was to search for myself and see what came up.  Low and behold, in addition to recent articles about my marriage, the birth of my children, and performances of the band I was in (Soul Vacation), I found several older articles. If you're the kind of person that thinks it's interesting to "Google" your name, try searching for it in your local newspaper archives. Warning: It can be alternately fascinating, hilarious, emotional, and occasionally frightfully embarrassing (although clearly I only plan to post things that make me look good, lol)...

Teamed up with a friend to take home 1st in the Math Fair in our 6th grade year. Full paper here

Barbe High School Show Choir in spring 2002. Full paper here

District V Honor Jazz Band in spring 2003. Full paper here

Just FYI, I realize it seems a bit narcissistic to post all these articles about myself, but since I cannot ethically post information about living people in my family without their permission, this is the most prudent way to illustrate this blog post... or at least that's what I'm telling people. ; )

 As it turns out, the Lake Charles American Press has scanned all their paper back to 1912 using optical character recognition (OCR), so that they are fully searchable.  The possibilities are endless!  House or property history, the life of a local business or restaurant through advertisements, progression of crime in a certain area, study of a local artist or music group, local legislation or elections, news about an industry like fishing, timber, or oil.  The implications of having this information accessible at your fingertips goes way beyond family history research!  Anyway, can you tell I'm excited???

Click here to subscribe to the Lake Charles American Press ePaper and see what you can find!

And finally we arrive at the genealogy portion of today's program...

I found it interesting that week 4 of the genealogy do-over has been considered "optional" by some.  Not only has this week been my favorite so far, but logging my searches and tasks was one of the main goals for me in this genealogy do-over.

As I've moved forward through this do-over I have been tracking tasks or "proof points" or whatever you choose to call them in one central location. As I find a piece of information and I need to do something with it or it leads to new questions I add them to my spreadsheet, so I always know what I need to be working on. Here is a clip of my log (original by Thomas MacEntee can be found here) showing what that looks like:

Let's move on to tracking search attempts. By logging my searches I am accomplishing many things simultaneously.  On his blog Thomas MacEntee talks about being able to quickly repeat the same search across several similar databases, but let's look at a few other advantages.  

The first thing that comes to mind is spelling variations.  There are usually several spelling variations to be searched for each person in your tree, but there can be dozens.  Searching with and without middle names, using abbreviations or initial(s), and also nicknames can add up quickly. (This article from gives some great examples of this.) When you combine this with dates, Boolean search tricks, etc the possibilities increase exponentially.  Search tracking can keep a running record of what search criteria you have tried, so you don't repeat yourself or miss something.  

This leads us to the next helpful thing about keeping a search log, being able to PURPOSEFULLY repeat a search.  Thomas MacEntee's research log has a place for the URL, which I think is great.  However, if that link no longer works (and we all know how often that can happen), then we have the exact search criteria we used to find or results, and we can use it to find them again.  

Lastly, let's talk about negative evidence.  I must say that finding a record with the evidence I need is what I would like to happen every time.  Sometimes though, NOT finding a record is evidence of something too.  Using negative evidence in establishing genealogical proof is not something I'm good at, nor have I had much practice.  By tracking my searches, even if they come up empty, I am setting myself up to be able to properly use negative evidence in the future. Here is a great article by Elizabeth Shown Mills about evidence evaluation, including negative evidence.

So, in another tab of that same log, this shows how I tracked my search results:

Since I am using Evidentia for my evidence analysis and source citations, I am not including these items in my Excel spreadsheet.

So now to the good part... what I found!

I addition to 3 FRONT PAGE articles about his involvement in the border patrol, I discovered this incredible article about my great-grandfather Richard Lyon Martin Sr written at the time of his retirement. What a find!

Here is the link to the full paper from that day. Images of pages from the Lake Charles American Press were used only after I called and asked for permission.

Well, I suppose in actuality this should've been at least 2 separate blog posts. At least I got the information out there. Hopefully it helps you get out there and get to researching (without ever re-searching again).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Proud to Be a Geneablogger!

I can't believe that over the weekend this Southern Branches blog hit 1000 page views AND was welcomed to the geneablogger family. Since publishing my most recent post on Thursday, it has been viewed over 200 times. For those of you who are not social networkers, community members, or challenge acceptors I'm letting you know now that it's WORTH IT! The genealogy community is full of such generous, kind, and helpful people (not that there aren't exceptions but I'm an optimist, so lets not talk about that now ;).

Here are a few great facebook groups that I'm in that offer really great community:

Genealogy Do-Over

Book of Me, Written by You

If you're more into Google+ then here are 2 more I use:



I wanted to take this brief moment to especially thank Thomas MacEntee. The many hours and days and weeks, etc that he has put into creating the geneabloggers community are so appreciated by us all. I also want to thank you, Thomas, for making available your research log for FREE! It already proven helpful in my research during the Genealogy Do-Over. I have ALSO adapted it for use in organizing a remodeling project at my church and for project management in my business. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

Anyway, I have many, many blog posts in the works and am trying not to get overwhelmed but just plug away. (Maybe Thomas's project management spreadsheet will help, lol!) Hopefully I will be publishing another post in the next 24 hours. Thanks for reading, my geneablogger buddies!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I'm "Doing the Do-Over"

I have to say, I was ecstatic when I heard about Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over. I have started a do-over many times and always got overwhelmed with the vastness of the information (I have "collected" over 2000 names) that I would have to find and enter again... and this time with proper analysis!! *cue ominous music* Since I am planning a research trip focused on my father's family, the Martins, in late spring/early summer, I am using this motivation combined with the Geneablogger prompts to finally do-over my do-over!

When I started my journey into family history, it was as a high school project. To my teacher's credit, she required at least 10 primary sources with citations. As a 16-year-old I still did not understand that I shouldn't automatically believe everything my relatives or those sources said. Upon completion of my year-long project, I took a break and didn't return to my genealogy until after my marriage when I discovered the amazing 2 week free trial. At this point I saved dozens and dozens of documents in a matter of only a few days. And of course wherever I found someone else researching one of my ancestors, I immediately merged our trees. *cringe*

A few years down the road, I began to understand how important this hobby really was to me, and I first considered getting certified as a professional genealogist. It was at this point when I truly realized how vital tracking my research and citing and analyzing my sources would be. It was important to me for several reasons.
#1... I was wasting a lot of time re-researching the same questions and the same records or forgetting which spelling variations I had searched.
#2... I suddenly had the desire to publish my research in one way or another.
#3... I needed practice following BCG guidelines if I was going to take on clients or get certified.

So here I go...

I'm definitely an "all in" participant, but I'm combining and overlapping some of my steps. To follow along more closely with the actual 13-week program, head straight to the Do-Over website. As of this writing, we're on week 3 of 13. The week 4 tasks come out tomorrow.

So here's a list of our tasks so far and how I've handled them...

Week #1:
-Setting Previous Research Aside
--This one was easy for me... Just don't look at it. I keep my tree in the cloud using ancestry. My trees at FamilySearch & FindMyPast are both clean slates, so as I prove names and facts using GPS, I can add them to a fresh, clean tree! Oh HAPPY Day! I have a brand new genealogy folder in my dropbox folder. I will be naming files "LAST, First (YYYY - YYYY) [Year of Record] [Type of Record]". This same format is what I will use for the titles of Evernote notes & clipped searches. In Evernote I will put cleaning up my current folders and tags on my To Do list. From now on tags will include surname, state, county, & record type. All genealogy research related notes will go into the "genealogy do-over" notebook.
-Preparing to Research
--This topic is really the flip side of the coin to the previous topic, so I've largely covered this. My main goal here is to be more self-aware as I move forward about what's working and what isn't and fix it IMMEDIATELY if it's not. By week 13 I hope to have really worked out the kinks of my "system". After all, organization only works if you'll actually keep doing it.
-Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines
--Again some of this was built into my previous topics. The major addition here is that I'm going to break down EVERY claim in EVERY source using Evidentia. This program incorporates the Genealogical Proof Standard of evidence evaluation. It walks you through the process of citing the source, entering the information, and evaluating the evidence and leaves you with almost ready-made proof reports that only require your brief (or not) written conclusion. While the interface and the process may not be too attractive... the results are breath-taking. #genealogywin

Week #2:
-Conducting Self Interview
--For this portion of the project I started by entering from scratch my family-group-sheet-type information into my new cloud tree. I will be continuing work on this topic by picking up where I left off on my Book of Me project (from Angler's Rest) with the goal to complete the project before my 10th wedding anniversary in May.
-Conducting Family Interviews
--I did reach out and make contact with four different relatives on my Martin side. Formal Interviews are written on my To Do list and scheduling is in the works. Yay!
-Setting Research Goals
--I set some broader 1st quarter goals for my Martin genealogy before beginning this do-over project, which I will post later. This topic, I believe, refers to more small-step goals which I am treating as tasks. Using Thomas's spreadsheet I have been adding goals/proof points/tasks as I go about entering information. This also serves as a brain dump to make sure I'm not constantly trying to remember what I'm supposed to do. (ADD much?)

Week #3:
-Tracking Research & Conducting Research
--I'm just going to lump these together, because I've already covered some of this. Plus, in this "new way" of doing genealogy... I can't actually do one without the other. I have now entered 16 sources and all the evidence from them WITH citation and analysis into my Evidentia program. I still have a handful more to go. These are all either original records or well-cited derivatives that came from an actual repository, not the internet. If I have a document without satisfactory source information, I am putting a task in my To Do list to RE-locate the source for proper citation and then enter it into Evidentia. I've already spotted several holes and added tasks to my log for each.

While this whole process is obviously very slow, I'm actually shocked at how quickly I'm making progress. My biggest problem at this point is my tendency to get bored. Already I've let myself (purposefully) follow rabbit trails and BSO's (bright, shiny objects) just for a change of pace. This wouldn't really be that big of a deal, except that I keep forgetting to log my searches!!! I'm thrilled that this is the next topic, because this is a huge time-drainer for me. I truly WANT to do it right, but I need practice. Looking forward to what Mr. MacEntee has for us all this week. Until next time!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Special People: A "Book of Me" Dinner Party

For Prompt 13 and 14 of the Book of Me Project, we were told to imagine that we were throwing two dinner parties and could only invite 12 people to each.  For the first there could be no relatives on the guest list and for the second, family only.

This one was tougher than it seemed when I started out.  I kept thinking about conversation and how I would divide my attention.  For example my first choice would be Jesus Christ, but inviting Him would make all the other people seem irrelevant... unless I were to invite my friends and family who are not believers, so that they could talk to Jesus and get to know Him.  So for the purposes of this exercise I won't be including Him on my list.

As for the details of the party, I would have it at my home, but I would definitely have it catered since cooking isn't my strong suit.  Plus I wouldn't want to worry about drinks and snacks when I could be visiting with my guests.

(Hypothetical question about this hypothetical question... Would it be cheating if I made my party "plus one" so that each person on the invite list could bring their spouse??)

Here's my non-family list:
    • Paul the Apostle
    • Moses
    • C.S. Lewis
    • Tolkien
    • Carrie Moreau (friend)
    • Lynette Hayes (friend)
    • Brother Randy Edwards (my pastor)
    • Adam
    • Mary, mother of Jesus
    • Noah
    • Joseph, son of Jacob
My runners-up are King David & Abraham.

Here's my family list.  I chose not to include anyone living, because then it sort of turns into a wedding guest list and we all know how those can turn out.  And anyway, this is a genealogy blog.
  • Emma Brimer Hill
  • Mary Zoey Rachal Richey
  • Minnie Richey
  • William Park
  • Robert McGrath (my Paw Paw)
  • Margaret Gamble McGrath
  • Lily Theresa Chenevert Martin
  • Richard Lyon Martin
  • Samuel Allen Martin (my Grandad)
  • Willie Henderson Taylor Martin
  • Hiram Gray Austin
  • William Pinckney Rose

I actually got my hubby to do this one too.  As in most things, he didn't over-analyze it as much as me, but gave me his list almost off the cuff.  He said he would simply love to hear all these men in a room having a discussion and listen like a fly on a wall.
  • Jesus
  • Paul
  • Isaac Newton
  • Einstein
  • Thomas Edison
  • Ben Franklin
  • Ghandi
  • Buddha
  • Muhammad
  • Pope Francis
  • Eric Tarver (friend)
  • Corey Tarver (friend)

So tell me.  Who would you invite to your dinner party?

Snow!!! (Book of Me: Prompt 15)

I picked a doozy of a post to be my 1st post back after more than a year of not blogging.  Dates and links and photos OH MY!  Well, here we go...

It's been pretty cold here lately, so I decided to pick up where I left off on the Book of Me project (out of order of course) by talking about SNOW.

It's only snowed 5 times in my hometown of Lake Charles, LA in my lifetime:

February 7, 1988 (1.6 inches) First time either Dave or I saw snow.

This is one of my favorite pics.  My dad and I are having such a serious conversation!  Plus it kinda looks like we're in Narnia.

December 1989 it snowed the same week my sister-in-law Melissa was born.  I was getting snowed on too, but in VA.  My parents and grandparents and 2 of my uncles had Christmas at a friend's home.

December 2008 & 2009 snow flurries happened in Lake Charles, but less than half an inch each time.

And this past January 2014... a whopping .1 inches!! But it was so unusually cold for coastal Louisiana that we ended up having a total of 5 "snow days" from school! The funniest part was that grocery shopping the night before was panic-level "pre-hurricane", but instead of people buying out all the cases of water and batteries... almost every store in town was out of roux. HAHA!

Other memorable snow experiences:

Christmas Challenge Retreat (1997??) on Lookout Mountain in Georgia with the youth group at Sale Street Baptist Church. My husband David and I were actually both on this trip, although we didn't know each other yet! I'll have to hunt down some pictures from this.
Ski trip to Maine in January 2008
11-month-old Isaac came with us when we went skiing in Sugarloaf, Maine with our friends the Tarver family.
I have a photobook of this, but the original digital photos are lost and I can't share the book via the snapfish website like I can shutterfly.
If you have an account with you can check this out

Christmas in Grapevine 2012:
This magical Christmas when, for the 1st time in 20 years, it snowed in Dallas, TX... while we were there... on Christmas Day.

Click here to view this photo book larger

February in Philly with McGrath cousins:
I will post about this soon over at Knowing William, but here's a quick pic as a preview.

Here is the link to historical snowfall data for southwest Louisiana from the national weather service