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FamilyTrackers Blog

26 September 2006

Family Characters - James Daniel Hall

Do you have someone in your family who is a character? My Uncle Jim (James Daniel Hall 25 Feb 1901 Sumner County, KS - Jun 1978 Anadarko, Caddo County, OK) was truly a one-of-a-kind character who kept the family laughing for as long as I know about. I told someone recently that you could always tell when Jim was teasing - "When his mouth is moving."

In 1988 his sister Clara Belle Hall told me this story about an event that happened when they lived on the farm in Caddo County (before 1912), "Jim had the best sense of humor of anyone I have ever met. He was always that way. One time Jim and one of the Beardsly boys, Rosco, put a hat on the horse while mom and dad were gone. They decided to let the horse see what he looked like. So they took him into the house to look in the mirror. I don't know what happened exactly but I guess the horse looked into the mirror and got excited. He broke something and they got into trouble."

Another time, Aunt Clara was supposed to fix some lunch for Jim when he was working at the Vallier's filling station in Anadarko. She decided to take a nap and was asleep when Jim came home. He found a ball of twine and wrapped it around and under the bed so she couldn't get up - then went back to work.

Jim was one of the only Halls that seemed to carry part of the Scotch-Irish forward from our immigrant ancestor into our current life. He always insisted on planting potatoes on Saint Patrick's Day. Our friend, Homer Turney, from
Fort Cobb always planted a large garden including potatoes. Jim found out that he had planted potatoes and asked him if he planted them with the eyes up. "They won't grow unless the eyes are facing up. You have to be real careful about that." So Homer went home and dug up the entire potato patch and turned the eyes up.

Homer should have known better as Jim got him on another occasion just before Christmas. We asked Jim to bring some straw for a manger scene we were building at the office. Jim took a little left-over straw and put it into a nice bowl on the breakfast table along with a carton of milk. It was supposed to be a new cereal with 'lots of fiber' according to Jim. Homer had a bowl full of straw and milk before someone stopped him.

We built a lot fences with John Garland in Anadarko in the early 1970s and that experience provided a wealth of 'Uncle Jim' stories. He and my dad (William Stanley Hall 13 Mar 1912 Caddo County, OK - 4 Jan 2004 Olympia, WA) argued like children over the most trivial details of building fence. Jim's main complaint was that dad always seemed to be somewhere else when the work started, "Every time I look up that boy is either off taking a leak or going to town for more beer." Even in his 60s dad was a 'boy' to Uncle Jim. My dad was a stickler for details and wanted every post tamped in just so and almost insisted that we measure the distance between posts down to the inch. On the other hand, Jim was looking for easier ways to get things done. He pointed out that there was an old well up on the hill and that "we could get that old well, cut it into pieces and then just throw the pieces down from the back of the truck wherever we wanted a posthole." He had a fertile imagination. Just for the record, neither Jim nor Stanley got their way as John and I stepped off the holes and filled them quickly with the edge of our shoe.

We had a small tractor with an auger on the back to dig the corners of our fence and some of the rocky areas that were especially difficult. This provided one of the scariest moments of our fence-building time. Jim was driving and my dad was directing - back up, auger in gear, lower the auger, raise the auger, auger out of gear, drive forward. Sometimes it got a little monotonous and one or both of them would do the wrong thing. On this particular occasion Jim drove forward with the auger still in the ground. The front of the tractor reared straight up until the motor died with the tractor almost vertical. Jim was looking straight up into the sky and gasoline was dripping out of the tank right onto his lit cigarette. It was balanced and bouncing just a little bit forward and back and looked like it would go over backwards on the next bounce. As it bobbed forward, dad pushed the clutch just a bit so that it went forward a little further and kept doing that until it was back on the ground again. The argument started almost immediately, "You told me to drive forward." "No, when I do like this it means to raise the auger." John said later that he ". . . thought they were going to come to blows." The laughter this time one of those weird inappropriate raucous laughs driven by adrenaline and relief.

Jim loved children and all of the mothers in the family cringed at the things he taught the children. I remember him teaching me to make a corral out of a half slice of bread, "Tear out the middle part and put the crust up against the edge of your place. Then fill the corral with gravy and dip the bread in there." He also taught us how to dunk donuts and other unacceptable habits during that time. There was a nonsense rhyme that he taught some of the kids but, I never knew about it. My 2nd cousin Mark Thompson is perhaps the last person to learn it.

Our daughter was born near the end of Jim's life and he loved talking with her. She was so young that it probably just sounded like "blah blah blah" to her. I guess that was the first time as an adult that I saw the gentle way that he loved children. In many ways he still had a little boy inside of him and that allowed him to relate in a very special way to children.

Everyone who knew him can tell a funny story about Uncle Jim. He liked to sit around with some friends behind West Hardware during the day. One of those friends came to Jim's funeral and I will never forget this grown man who reached into the casket and touched Jim for a long moment before moving on - a final tribute to Jim's ability to affect people around him.

You can review Jim's position in the family at my public site at . . .


03 September 2006

Cool Genealogy Gear

I just discovered that you can get cool t-shirts, coffee cups, and other stuff at zazzle.com. There is not much available for genealogists so I created a store with some FamilyTrackers gear. You can customize the items with your own family name. Check it out below or go straight to the FamilyTrackers store. There are lots of items from other people as well.

03 June 2006

A Tribute to Oklahomans

Steinbeck covered the "Okies" who moved to California during the 1930s dust bowl - a great story. I'm clearly not in his league when it comes to stories, but I think he missed a great opportunity when he didn't tell about the people who stayed in Oklahoma - the ones who stuck it out and build lives for themselves right there in the middle of the dust and through the economic crisis that was the great depression.

Most of the images of that time focus on the move west - lines of vintage automobiles traveling down highway 66 with bags of water tied to the front and lines of people waiting in soup lines. My parents, both grandmothers and most of my aunts and uncles are among those brave souls who got up every morning and swept the dust from the doorway that came in through the keyhole overnight and who planted honey locust trees along the edges of fields to keep the dirt from blowing away.

Before the dust bowl, life was fairly normal for my parents. In early January 1930, my mother got permission to skip the last two periods at Anadarko High School to attend the local track meet with Mary Leight Baird, daughter of local pioneers and a lifetime friend of my parents. She also kept the ticket stub from her third "dance out" held at the armory in Anadarko - an event that she attended with my father before they were married and an event held only a half block from the house where they lived when I was born.

In 1931 when the drought began my parents, William Stanley Hall and Rubey Della Cook (photo at left), were new graduates of Anadarko High School. Both of their fathers (Levi Elmer Hall in 1925 and William Moses Cook in 1916) had died leaving widows and children to cope with an uncertain future. My father was industrious and worked at a variety of jobs after his father died - from selling newspapers to wrapping butter at Whitaker's Creamery. My mother was able to live with her sister, Ruth Naomi Dutcher (nee Cook) in Anadarko during high school and then went to college at the Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha.

It was a time of great change and presented both challenges and opportunities. I was lucky enough to meet a local man late in his life who happened to have some money during the 1930s in Oklahoma. He purchased farms in Caddo and Grady counties that were abandoned by the those migrating west and paid only the amount of back taxes - usually less than $100 for 160 acres of land that later produced a fortune in oil and gas. It’s interesting that some people make money while others are losing everything.

All of the children of Levi Elmer Hall and Mary Mahala Longenecker who were living in 1969
Front: Barbara Alberta Oelke, Ruth Marie Reiss, Clara Belle Hall, Stella Jane Fisher
Back: James Daniel Hall, Lewis Elmer Hall, Carl Edward Hall, William Stanley Hall

My uncle, James Daniel Hall, moved to Oakland and painted ships during the war and my aunt Barbara Alberta Hall married Samuel Joseph Oelke and moved from the oil fields in Oklahoma to the oil fields of California. My Aunt Stella Jane Hall married Paul Fisher and moved to Yreka California. James Daniel eventually moved back to Oklahoma and died there. I remember trips to California to visit our cousins and reunions in Oklahoma when they came to visit us.

On one trip to California (many years after the depression), Aunt Barbara had a particular beach that she wanted us to see and I was anxious to get there. I remember Aunt Barbara pointing straight left and telling my dad to "Turn right" causing a great confusion and providing a good long-term laugh. As it turned out, we drove for a very long time and the sand was so hot that we couldn't stand it. So we returned to Long Beach where the water was only a couple of blocks from Aunt Barbara's house. She had an avocado tree in the front yard that we climbed - the avocados that she picked during the winter and sent to Oklahoma as a special treat at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

During that same trip, we drove north to Uncle Jim's house near Chico. He lived in an almond orchard - pronounced "ammon” orchard by Uncle Jim. He was married at that time and I remember his wife whisking my mother away to measure her for a homemade bra. My brother, Kent, and I went fishing in a creek nearby and got our line tangled in a big bush - our first experience with poison sumac. We only knew about poison oak in Oklahoma and it looked nothing like the California version. By the time we got to Aunt Stella's house in Yreka, we were swollen up all over. We saw a doctor there who gave us some shots that provided some relief.

From there we drove to my Aunt Ruth Hall's house (who married Carl Reiss) near Connell, Washington. They were farmers who moved west long after the dust bowl - and lots of fun. Uncle Carl was a big joker and loved to tease. The last time that we saw him, he told a really long story while we watched the news on television. I got comfortable and took a little snooze as he talked. When I woke up he was still talking and I woke up just in time for the punch line, “Everybody spoke German at home and on the first day of school I couldn’t speak a word of English. Now my pronounce-ation is real good.” He was always good for a laugh. Aunt Ruth was famous for her work in the kitchen. They had a dairy in Oklahoma and when we visited there, she made fresh butter and sand-plum jelly, butchered chickens, and kept a garden. Her hot rolls were cherished and we always buttered and jellied a batch to eat on the way back to Anadarko. One time, Carl J. (junior) replaced our sack of rolls with a sack of walnuts which we didn’t discover until we were well on our way.

All the rest of our family pretty much stayed in the Oklahoma area - 13 children in my father's family and 11 children in my mother's family - so holidays were pretty exciting. It seems like all of these family members never really got over the dust bowl and the depression. They were very cautious with money and hated to be in debt. It was a defining moment in their lives and they never forgot the lessons learned during that time.

So I have always admired the people in Oklahoma. They were hardened by circumstance and those who stayed were very special people who found opportunity and built lives for themselves despite the hard times.

15 May 2006

Other Sources of Genealogy Information

Sometimes I find information in the most unexpected places. We visited the Telephone Pioneer Museum in Albuquerque yesterday just to see some of the history there and perhaps a memorial plaque for my father-in-law. It is a great museum with tons of old telephone equipment like phones, switchboards, and hole diggers. It is located in the original telephone office built in 1906. My father-in-law, Thomas George Hinde, was employed by Mountain Bell from about 1935 until he retired in about 1971 or so. Naturally, we had an interest.

What we didn't know was that the museum has gathered data on thousands of people who worked at the phone company over the years including photo albums donated by retired employees, telephone books for the entire state from the early day of telephones, and notebooks from people in the field who were building lines. This information is available to interested genealogists who visit the museum and pay the $1 suggested donation – a bargain price. I encourage you to give more if you can.

The museum volunteers are retired phone company employees and their spouses. They have a great deal of information about the items in the museum and general history of the telephone industry. Just like genealogy society volunteers, this museum is staffed with the best people who will do anything to help you get the most from your experience. You may have to ask about the archives area since it is located in a separate area from the main part of the museum.
It would have been better to spend an entire day, but we only had a few hours to browse the information there. We had a good digital camera which has become a necessary tool for any library visit. Gi Gi who volunteers at the museum showed us the right photo albums to search and we quickly found nice photos of Thomas George Hinde. My daughter found someone there named William Hinde who we knew as 'Uncle Bill' and we had no pictures of him. Then on the very next page was a photo of Uncle Bill and his wife. So that made a great connection for us and we plan to return and spend more time.

The museum is located at 110 4th Street NW, Albuquerque, NM in the downtown area. This is a nice area with lots of activity and the parking is surprisingly affordable – I saw available parking for less than $3. Bring your camera and plan to spend the day exploring the area.
Overall, it was a great trip and I recommend that you look to this and other non-traditional sources for genealogy information that is bound to be high quality like . . .

Masonic lodge, Odd Fellows, and other membership groups like the New Mexico Masons at http://nmmasons.org/
Employer information like railroad associations, union records, etc. like the New Mexico Steam Locamotive and Historical Society located at http://www.nmrhs.org/
Educational institutions like University of New Mexico located at http://www.unm.edu/

If you Go . . .
  • Take your camera and tripod. Copy facilities are not available and materials must remain in the museum.
  • Plan to eat in one of the excellent restaurants near the museum. If you have never tasted authentic New Mexico food, it's a real treat - nothing like TexMex, California fresh, or anything else. Be prepared to make decisions about chili (red or green), tortillas (corn or flour), color of corn tortillas (blue or yellow) and don't worry about the sopapillas - they will come with your meal automatically. My recommendation - one red and one green, corn, and blue respectively.
  • Plan on at least an hour to see the museum and all day if you plan to look at their archives.
  • Don't forget to thank the volunteers there. There are some wonderful people there who are delighted to help you with questions.
  • Make a donation. If you are in a position to help the museum, make a generous donation to help them.

The Telephone Museum of New Mexico is located on the 4th street pedistrian mall between Copper and Central in downtown Albuquerque. The phone number there is 505-842-2937 and they are open Monday through Friday from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. Hours have changed in recent years and you should probably check before you go and definitely check if you have a large group who wants to see the museum.

16 November 2005

Genealogy in Northern Ireland - A Hall Family Adventure

It was a struggle getting my paternal line back to 1741 Virginia only to hit a brick wall in Northern Ireland. My oldest known Hall relative, William Hall Sr., was born in Ireland in about 1702 or 1704 according to census information here in the United States. The family that I know about traveled with and intermarried with other families who were from County Antrim - now in Northern Ireland. And the earliest location that I know about the family is in an almost exclusively Scotch-Irish settlement called The Borden Grant in Virginia. Their farm was almost surrounded by a large curve in the James River near present-day Lexington, Virginia. Across the river on a small stream known as Whistle Creek was the Presbyterian Church that they attended - called Hall's Meeting House. Everything that I know about them indicates that they are Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who have a history typical of many others of that time.

  • Early Ireland - Governed in small groups
  • About 1607 - Northern Ireland "planted" with Protestants from Scotland loyal to England with instructions to clear the land of native Irish Catholics.
  • About 1641 - 1651 - Irish rebel against English and about 600,000 Irish die.
  • After 1691 - Catholics and Protestants alike are denied religious freedom, ownership rights, voting rights, and access to educational opportunities. Protestants are particularly hard hit with almost a complete reversal of their fortunes in less than 100 years.
  • Beginning early 1700s - Situation so bad that both Protestants and Catholics begin emigrating from Northern Ireland.

Interestingly that history continues to influence Northern Ireland and our understanding of our relatives who were there. We decided to take a trip there and see what we could find out. After a hectic week in England to visit my wife's dead relatives (and some live ones) we took a short flight to Belfast to see where my relatives lived between the early 1600s and the early 1700s.

Belfast is a nice town with lots of activity around the university and the downtown area. We stayed in a brand new hotel in downtown Belfast near the Ulster Historical Foundation. I had ordered both a preliminary report and a detailed report from them before we left home and hoped to discover even a small clue about the Hall family there. The town was full of nice people going about their business and we never felt uncomfortable or concerned about safety issues that dominated the news a few years back.

Since we were a little travel-weary, we settled in at the hotel and decided to have dinner there rather than walking somewhere else. I must say, they fed us like ranch hands with a delicious array of local foods. The following morning we had an Irish breakfast in the restaurant filled with a team of soccer players visiting town for a local match. There we tried to founder ourselves on sausages and other meats served in this heaviest of Irish traditions. Our Irish ancestors know how to put on a good feed.

After breakfast we took a short walk to the Foundation offices to meet with Brian Trainer and check the status of our search. The offices are in an historic looking building and we were directed to an upstairs area where there was a bookstore and a handful of enthusiastic volunteers. We picked a couple of books that looked interesting and a map - a weakness of mine. I just think you can never have enough maps.

Then we met with Brian to discuss our search for the Hall family and to go over the results and possible next steps. That meeting turned into a wonderful history lesson as Brian described the general conditions during the time our family resided in County Antrim and the most likely reasons and ways that they could have gotten to the US. Some of the information was enlightening. For example . . .

  • The planted Scots were initially privileged and the native Irish discriminated against in the early 1600s. The large land holders didn't want to move to Ireland, so they got other people to do that work and offered land for these others to do the work. These smaller land holders did the same in a pyramid fashion until the people who were finally put on the land ended up with such a small amount that they couldn't make ends meet.
  • The shipping companies took advantage of the bad conditions by making sure that emigrants in the early 1700s had little or no money when they got on the ship. It seems like a typical emigrant would leave their going-away party and travel to Belfast, Derry or some other port to meet the ship. Then they had to spend whatever money they had for food and lodging waiting for the ship to arrive. Some ship captains intentionally delayed their departure to make sure that emigrants were broke. This allowed the ship owners to make significantly more money by selling the Irish and Scotch-Irish into indentured servitude upon arrival in North America.
    This situation also encouraged ship owners to take more emigrants than their ship could hold leading to extremely difficult on-board conditions.
  • Tracing Irish ancestors is made more difficult by the number of ships that carried passengers to the United States and Canada illegally. Ships designed for cargo brought grain and other good from North America to Ireland and returned with human cargo - even though the ships were not designed to accommodate passengers. These ships sometimes didn't keep passenger lists at all and the over crowded ships sometimes only listed the number of people that they were designed to carry. This practice left off the names of many passengers that boarded over the limit.
  • Since our William Hall was on 160 acre farm by 1743, there is a chance that he had money in Ireland, or that he had been in the US long enough to work off his servitude and save purchase money by that time. That's a nice bit of logic from Brian that helped put our relative in some context.

Records in Northern Ireland are a bit difficult because of the long history of conflict that has resulted in destroyed archives and a complex maze of things that must be known before starting. For example, it is important to know religion (Protestant or Catholic) and a very specific location within a county in addition to the usual name and date. The preliminary report from the Ulster Historical Foundation helped us discover the locations of records that might possibly help us find our relatives.

Our search didn't turn up any information that directly applied to our Hall family and we took a short break back at the hotel before deciding to spend the rest of our time getting to know the area and people in the Scotch-Irish area between Ballymoney and Ballymena. That required a change of plans.
We called the tourist office in Belfast to see what we could find out in the country. After a short conversation about possibilities, we called a couple of places before reaching Lily O'Neal who was surprised to get our call so late in the season (October). She informed us that the gate house was available was available for 100 pounds (About $120 in US dollars at that time). It is a three-bedroom house and much larger than we needed, but the price seemed right and it was out in the country where we wanted to be. So Lily gave directions to Stranocum and instructions to "Ask the man at the store how to find Mrs. O'Neal's house." I tried to clarify the name of the store and its location and Lily assured me that we ". . . couldn't miss it."
While I fully expected to pay some sort of fee for late cancellation, we checked out of our Belfast hotel and paid for only one night. The hotel people were just fantastic and understanding - something that we found to be true all over Northern Ireland.

Then we made our way along an almost deserted highway toward Ballymoney and Stranocum. The Irish countryside is similar to some of the places we saw in England with one striking exception. The thorny hedges around the small fields in England are replaced by rows of red colored fuchsia in Ireland.

Lily was right about the store. It turned out that the store was the only building in sight after we passed the sign at the edge of town. It is a wonderful store with just about one of everything you might need. The man gave us directions to a driveway about a half mile down the road. The O'Neal house was about another half mile off the road.

We saw the house from a good distance away - a mansion really. As we learned later, the house was the original house built for one of the large land holders from England during the early 1600s. It housed the people near the top of one of the land pyramids and had fallen into disrepair. The O'Neils bought it and shooed away the birds that were living in the house and restored it to its original condition. We later toured the house and grounds with Billy O'Neal and learned about its history. Among all of the beautiful art and furniture that Billy and Lily had in their house, there was a little sign that I remember, "There are no strangers here - just friends that we have not met." I like to remember them that way as well as the nice people that we met at the restaurant and Keith at the little museum in Ballymoney - all with the lovely lilting accent that has changed very little since William Hall left in the early 1700s. The area is well worth a visit and we were able to drive almost every road in the county in just a few leisurely days. A few places that you should not miss . . .

  • The Glens of Antrim - a series of nine glens that extend inland from the sea, each with a unique character. Beautiful trees, more colors of green than you can count, history, peat bogs, and tiny villages where you can linger with locals over a pint of Guinness.
  • The Giant's Causeway - a volcanic formation that was created when lava cooled rapidly - kind of like when the mud cracks in the bottom of a pond in summer except that the cracks extends straight down through the rock. The formation extends into the ocean in a series of steps and is a short walk from the top of the hill (where you can buy a map).
  • Bushmills Distillery - A great tour that includes a taste of the finished product afterward. They have been making whiskey at Bushmills since before 1608 when they were issued a license. A lovely woman showed us through the plant and explained the process of making fine single malt Irish whiskey. She also did a short unbiased talk about the differences between Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky ending with, ". . . and Irish whiskey includes an 'e' in the spelling; Scotch whisky does not." When a member of the group asked why the Irish use the 'e' in the spelling of whiskey, she answered simply, "Because it is correct."
  • The castle at Carrickfergus - a beautiful building that will give you perspective on this time in history as you walk through a real castle. I liked the dungeon where a great Irish leader named Con O'Neil was held for a while until the owner's daughter brought Con a wheel of cheese that was stuffed with a rope. Con lowered himself out the window directly into a waiting boat below and escaped. This castle built in about 1180 will set you up to see the ruins at Dunluce castle on the bluff overlooking the ocean.

The highlight of the visit for me was the Ulster-American Folk Park. This park will show you real-life examples of houses, businesses, and life before your ancestor emigrated from Northern Ireland. It even includes exhibits about the boat trip and their lives in North America. An authentic prairie schooner from the United States is included. There is also a great library with a searchable database and rooms of books on emigration - and loads of wonderful volunteers waiting to help you with your search.

We struck some gold in the museum when we found a familiar name - James Patton. He was a neighbor of William Hall in the Borden Grant in Virginia and there were marriages between the Patton family and the Hall family in the US. It turns out that Patton was the son of a ship's captain from Limivady, a small town just east of Derry (also known as Londonderry) in Derry County. This is all just a short distance from the area in County Antrim where we believe that William Hall may have been born. Patton is important because he met Borden and was involved in transporting Scotch-Irish from County Antrim to populate land in both the Beverly and Borden grants in Virginia. In addition, lots of information is available about Patton's family and history. This helps fill in some of the gaps about William Hall's life and how he might have ended up in Virginia. This Patton connection was fun and unexpected discovery so far from home. I wasn't even prepared with information from home about the Patton family.

Northern Ireland is a place where the green seems to come out of the ground and float like a fog just above the grass - a green so bright that it merges with the water falling into the Irish sea blurring the margins of sea, land and sky. It is a land of castles, friendly people, empty stretches of road, and mysterious stone circles. Make plans to go - even if you can't find your relatives there.

Some good resources:
Ulster Historical Foundation - http://www.ancestryireland.co.uk/index.php?PHPSESSID=&new_login

Ulster-American Folk Park - http://www.folkpark.com/

Ballymoney Museum
Ballymoney Borough Council
14 Charles Street
Ballymoney Co. Antrim BT53 6DZ
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0) 28 2766 0245

22 October 2005

Sherida K. Eddlemon Publishes Smith Facts of Missouri

Saturday, October 22, 2005
Sherida K. Eddlemon Publishes Smith Facts of Missouri

Sherida K. Eddlemon, a genealogist with over 15 years of publishing experience has published Smith Facts of Missouri at FamilyTrackers. This publication is part of Eddlemon’s continuing effort to publish and distribute her private collection of original and rare genealogical documents over the Internet.
The publication announced today will allow Smith researchers to easily locate a variety of information about their Smith relatives in Missouri. “This publication includes over 2,500 individuals listed in dictionary style. The information may include death, marriage and birth dates; names of spouses; locations; and children depending on the individual,” according to Eddlemon. These records were gleaned from Eddlemon’s private collection of original genealogical sources collected over a lifetime. According to Gene Hall, CEO of FamilyTrackers, Inc., “This publication is a real time-saver for researchers interested in the Smith family, including alternate spellings like Smyth and Smythe.” The 46-page publication is sold in its entirety on FamilyTrackers in Microsoft Word format and available for downloading immediately.
Genealogists can search this and every other publication on FamilyTrackers by entering a free search at familytrackers.com. The FamilyTrackers database will match your search with all current and future publications entered onto the site. Current FamilyTrackers members who entered matching searches in the past have already been notified to review the publication and decide if it will help their research efforts.
Hall continued, “We are delighted to work with Sherida on this project as well as the previous 16 publications that she has completed on FamilyTrackers. This is important information presented here for the first time.”
Sherida K. Eddlemon is a genealogist located in Tennessee and has published dozens of books including major works on birth, death, and marriage records in Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, Arkansas and Tennessee. She has 17 publications to her credit on FamilyTrackers – many of them available for the first time.
FamilyTrackers is a California corporation established as a tool to help genealogists find and track information about their families all over the world.
Contact Info:
Gene Hall, CEO
FamilyTrackers, Inc.
1075-239 Space Park Way
Mountain View, CA 94043

Sherida K. Eddlemon

11 October 2005

Genealogy Brick Walls - Professional Help Is Just a Click Away

Have you been stuck on your fourth great grandmother for over 10 years? Did you ever wish you could just go to the courthouse that has the information you need? Don't have the time or money to climb your family tree? Planning a trip to meet long-lost relatives?

Consider hiring a professional genealogist.

Sometimes we become a little smug about our research - particularly after years of intense experience; some of us don't think we need any help. Regardless, there are times when all of us could use the services of a good professional. When I was researching the Hinde family for a trip to England, we wanted to visit some of the churches and neighborhoods important to our family. There simply was not enough time to get the information that we needed before leaving on our trip. In addition, some of the information we needed was in the Metropolitan Police Archives in London - information that was not yet online. We searched the APG - Association of Professional Genealogists for someone in London who could help us.

We had a really good experience. The professional we hired was recommended by a distant relative in England and they appeared in the APG database of professional members who abide by strict ethical guidelines. Both of these facts made us more comfortable in sending 100 British Pounds to a person we had never met. After spending half a morning trying to get a bank to issue a cashier's check, I finally wired the money via Western Union from Clyde's Liquor Store. My wife still teases me about managing my banking business at the liquor store, but that is another funny story that must wait for another day.

The important thing is that we were under a time crunch, didn't have access to the information, and needed someone to go to a source on our behalf. Since we were new to this area of genealogy, we decided to hire the professional to do 10 hours of work for us for $100. That limited our exposure just in case things didn't work out.

In our case, there was never anything to worry about. The professional demonstrated qualities that are common among many who provide these services.

Asked questions and provided guidance: At the professional's request, I provided the information that we had relative to the story that was passed down to us about William Thomas Hinde, a report from Reunion that detailed the facts we had at that time, and various documents that proved the information in the report. This information allowed the professional to give us good advice about the best sources of additional information. Perhaps the Police Archives were not the best place to start. We identified several other basic references to include in the research as a result of this early discussion. This activity focused our research and leveraged our dollars - uh pounds - to maximize our chances for success.

Honesty: It goes without saying that you want to know the truth about your ancestry. Just the act of gathering additional information and giving candid feedback about our best course of action indicated to me that our researcher was honest. That proved to be true when we received results as well. Watch for signs of honesty as you make initial contacts. People who want to do only exactly what they are told are not really giving you the benefit of their expertise - you could hire a clerk to do that sort of work.

Accuracy: A good professional just has to be accurate. There is really no room for speculation in conclusions about your family. Of course you should get information about potential areas of further research. If conclusions are uncertain, the information you get should clearly line that out for you so that there is no confusion. Discussions about people should include full names, dates, and locations. Usage of words like 'she' or 'him' are sometimes confusing unless the professional is a very careful writer. It is also confusing to switch from a full name to an abbreviation like referring to William Thomas Hinde as Tom; now I wonder if there is a second person, or if the writer is referring to William Thomas Hinde. Ten years from now it will really be confusing.

Documentation: Your professional should expect to deliver all documentation that they found and used on your project. After just a few short years that will be all that you have to prove the conclusions that you make from this investment. If you only keep a letter from the professional outlining their efforts, you (or someone else) will have to do the research again. All conclusions are subject to your own questioning, "How do we know that is true?" and once you find that for one source, you have to ask again, "How did they know that is true?". Enough said. Get the documentation!

Experience: Please don't overlook this basic measure of quality. Professionals who have been in business for several years have stood the test of time and they are still in business. If you stick with trained professionals who are members of professional organizations like APG and you will find this one an easy question to answer before spending any money.

Pricing: I guess that I must include something about pricing. In terms of value, please consider how much it would cost you to travel to the location and get the information yourself. For anything other than across town, a professional is a bargain at almost any price. Also consider all of the other issues mentioned here; it doesn't matter how low the price if you don't get what you want. Most professionals are proud of their work and won't take your project at a price that won't allow them to give you a fair deal. There is tension between your ability to pay and the professional's ability to deliver at a certain price. Negotiate a deal that works for both of you even if you have to reduce the size of the project.

Professionals come in a variety of specialties based on geography, surnames, time periods, ethnic groups, events and special services like planning or genetics. There are some interesting new services like genealogy travel planning where the pro will do preliminary research, arrange for meetings with your relatives, and guide your group upon arrival. There are also services that cover wide geographic areas like those who live near the LDS Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. If your search covers a broad geographic area, you should consider ProGenealogists Family History Research Group.

Do your home work and expect to have a wonderful learning experience when you use a professional genealogist. That has been my experience and hope that yours is the same.