Friday, June 24, 2016

Trello - Organizing Genealogy

I have a natural tendency to be unorganized. Not on purpose mind you. I work hard to get organized, but it usually doesn't last long. One area of great concern to my organization has always been the numerous lists found about my home and office. I make a list for EVERYTHING! My office was always filled with sticky notes, or scraps of paper. These would get lost or accidentally thrown away. It made staying organized almost impossible. I had been using Excel for my genealogical research, so I thought I would try it for organizing my tasks, but it wasn't a nice fit for me. I have recently discovered another online tool that works for me, and I want to share it with you. A  few weeks ago, I read about Trello on The Cousin Detective's blog. It looked easy enough, so I decided to check it out for myself.

I wasn't prepared for the ease of creating the boards and lists! There's only so many hours a day and if you are like me, you look for quick and easy ways to get you through.

How to Use Trello in Just Four Easy Steps

1) Create a FREE account. 
  • What do you have to lose? Click here to go to the Trello site.
2) Create your first board.
  • They were so easy to do, that I actually created 3 - Genealogy, work, and home, in just a matter of minutes. Create and name your board or boards - and don't worry - if you want to change the name later, it's easy to do.
  • The Welcome Board helps to explain everything you need to know and for now, I have decided to leave it up to remind me of all the wonderful tools Trello has available.
3) Create lists

  • I had a ton of things to list, but I needed it to be in an easy to understand, cohesive format. I used these list headings, but you can choose any format that works for you.
    • Someday - these were things I knew I wanted to do in the future, but they weren't top priorities. They were there to help me remember them - like keeping it on a calendar. 
    • Next week - these were jobs that were higher priority and must get done soon.  
    • Weekly - These are for the tasks I do each week. I may at some point go back and add a Daily List, but for now this works. 
    • Tomorrow - I try not to give myself more than 2-3 jobs to do in order to ensure I have time to do them.
    • Today - Again, I list no more than 2-3 jobs. When I am working in genealogy, I am focusing on quality of work, not quantity of items done that day. 
    • Done - For completed tasks.

4) Fill in the lists with cards
  • Now that you have created lists, start adding your cards (tasks to be completed).
  • In order for this work, you don't want to carry anything over to the next day. Keep all tasks short and sweet. 
    • For example, I am checking and re-writing citations if needed, so my goal is to only do small batches of 10 each time I work on them. I have over 4,000 citations, so just saying "Re-do citations" can be too daunting and take much more than one day.
  • I use the "Someday" list as a catch-all. Whenever I think of a task that needs to be done, I place it here and move it to the today or tomorrow list when I am ready to work on it. You may name your lists differently, but find a way that works for you.
  • The Done list -That's my favorite one! You simply DRAG AND DROP the completed item over to the done board! What could be easier? :-)

Okay, now you have your boards set up, your lists created, and you have some cards put in your lists. 

Now let me show you some other cool things Trello can do!

Here are a couple of things I have found to be invaluable to me:

Color-Coding Labels
 Trello offers color-coded labels to help you organize. You may edit each color and assign it a description. I have only edited and used the green and yellow for the moment. You can change what the colors mean at any time.               

Assigning Due Dates

If you have a task that needs to be done by a certain date, Trello makes it easy to set that up. Just click on the due date button on the right, and a calendar pops up. As you see in this screenshot, you can also add descriptions and attachments. I included the URL for the Google+ Hangout I attend each month.

Check out Trello now to discover even more great features like:

  • Adding members to work on group projects
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Adding a calendar
Sign up today and give it a try! This could be tool that gets you organized and ready to tackle those to-do tasks today!

Monday, June 20, 2016

NGSQ Study Group

Although I have been doing genealogical research for years, I feel my skill set has not progressed much over the years. I am able to locate many documents, but there are still so many more sources to learn. I also need to learn how to analyze all of the evidence, including negative evidence. I want to learn more about how to use the F.A.N. method to backtrack and discover the parentage of ancestors. These are just a few of the areas I need to work on.

In order to learn more, it will require actively seeking courses and groups that can advance my knowledge and skills. I have been wanting to join the National Genealogical Society for some time and I finally did it. My wonderful husband paid for my membership! I am so excited to have access to all of the genealogical scholarly articles and to learn from them.  

In addition, I was accepted into the NGSQ study group. I have printed out the June article and I am on my third read through. There is so much to learn. With each read through, I am picking up on something I didn't catch or understand the first time around. I am preparing notes and trying to analyze the process. I can't wait until tomorrow evening when I sit in on the first study group Google+ hangout. 

I will also be enrolling in the American Genealogical Studies in the next couple of weeks. This is through NGS and it is a series of self-graded courses providing instruction, examples, web links, quizzes, written graded assignments, and more. I've got to keep busy this summer and I welcome the challenge!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Remembering Dad

Father's Day is very difficult for me. I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer on August 4, 2010. I would give anything to celebrate this special day with him one more time.  

I've been feeling nostalgic, and as I sat down the other day to go through pictures, I came across these of my dad. I wanted to honor him today and share these with all of you.  

This is a picture of my dad and sons. It brings back a lot of memories. Dad made one or two trips a year up from Corpus Christi to visit us in Dallas. This picture was taken in 1994.
My children would get so excited when he would come for a visit. They loved being with their Granddaddy. While visiting, my oldest son, TJ, would beg for him to make his Donald Duck voice, or to sing the songs, "A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" and "The Green Grass Grew All Around." Dad never disappointed. By the time he finished the songs, they were all laughing so hard they were crying.

This picture of my dad and me was taken in Cedar Hill, Texas in 1978.  

Dad loved jokes and playing around. We were throwing snowballs at my sister and grandmother.

I loved being close to him whenever I could, and I am so grateful my children got the chance to know him. 

This last picture still brings tears to my eyes. It is very special and I will treasure it forever. 
It is one of the last pictures I had taken with my dad. It was taken on July 6, 2010 - just a few weeks before Dad passed on in August. 
Although my parents divorced when I was seven years old, my Dad wanted my Mom to be a part of this day. In fact, she was around quite a bit in the last few weeks to help. I have only one other picture with me and the two of them together after the divorce. 

Daddy, you may be gone, but you are not forgotten. You are always in my heart. I love you.

Clay Ford 1934-2010

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Elisha's Senior Year May 2013

I'm posting old family photographs from my collection on Wednesdays, but they won't be wordless posts like others do.

This picture is special to me. It is of my youngest son, Elisha, taken in May 2013. It reminds me of his senior year and all of the wonderful times we shared during that whirlwind year. We couldn't afford to purchase senior pictures, so I decided we would take our own. We went out to a beautiful spot in a remote area of Waxahachie, Texas. It was a warm spring morning and we had fun shooting in different areas and just exploring. Time flies so quickly - it's been three years all ready!

My youngest daughter, Rebecca was with us that morning, She helped carry equipment and choose the locations. She loves doing everything with her brother, and she couldn't resist getting in on the fun. 
My children have grown up so quickly, and revisiting these pictures reminds me of all the wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) times I have spent with them. A reminder to cherish the time we have with our loved ones, for we know not how much time we have with them.

What wonderful memories do you recall as you sort through your photos?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Plan of Action: William Preston Ford, Part 3

This post is the third part of an ongoing research problem into my great-grandfather's life. In the previous two posts, I began researching to find out who the parents of William were and to find the marriage to his first wife Leona F. Sharp who died a few days after giving birth to their son, George William.

If you would like a recap you may use these links:

Plan of Action: William Preston Ford - part 2

I have been working diligently to locate any information on my great-grandfather, but I am coming up empty-handed at every turn. Here is what I have worked on since my last post.

1. Out of the eleven William Ford's in Missouri in the 1880 Census, I have ruled out seven. Those seven are all married with children. The ones I am still researching are:

* William Ford, born abt 1853, MO, lives in Prairieville, Pike, MO.

* William Ford, born about 1857, Ohio, living with another family in Sedalia, Pettis, MO, but there is also an older Ford in the home, John L. Ford, age 53.

* William Ford, born about 1857, living with William and Nancy E. Whitfield (nee Scott) in Blackwater, Pettis, MO.

* Wm. B. Ford, born about 1857, MO, living with parents Frank and Elizabeth. The initial could be a transcription error, or the census taker could have heard it incorrectly.

These may or may not be my William, but they are a place to start.

In addition to the above:

2. I have searched for marriage records for William Ford and Leona Sharp on and, as well as using various search engines. 

3. I searched on,, for any sign of a Leona Frances Sharp (birth records, census, death), but could find nothing. I tried with both names and then each name individually and I made sure to not use exact search.

4. I found the marriage application dated 25 Aug 1881 on for William and second wife, Sarah Dodd. It lists Fulton County, Arkansas as where William is from. I did an search for all Ford's in Fulton County, Arkansas in the 1880 census and did not find William Ford there. I expanded the search to surrounding counties and still no luck. 

5. I have sent off for marriage records for William Ford and Sarah Dodd, but have not received them yet. I do not expect to find anything on William's parents on the record, since he was of age, and had been married before, but I am still holding out hope.

6. I have been researching the Nancy E. Nicks (nee Nichols) who was caring for young orphan, George William Ford, aged 1 year. Found information on her husband and children, but have not found any link to William Ford's family as of yet.

Other areas I can continue to research:

1. Although I have not found any probate or will for William Ford online, I can call the county where he died to see if they have any records for him.

Plea for help:

I know there are other resources I have not checked. Is there anyone that could recommend any research strategies I have not already tried? All suggestions welcomed.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Be Judicious When Researching Documents

I know we have all heard it before: check ALL the information given on a record and don't accept it as gospel. I came across this death certificate for my second great grand-uncle, Isaac Wickliffe, a few years ago, but I never took the time to truly check all the information. Thanks to the Genealogy Do-Over by Thomas MacEntee, I have been going over all of my records. I had saved this to my online tree, but had never really looked at it before. Can you spot the error?  Hint: It involves math!

Looking at the birth year of 1872 and the death year of 1934, does not make Isaac 85 years old like the death certificate claims. It makes him 62 years old. On the other hand, if he were really 85 years old when he died, he would have been born in 1849. Based on the other records I have found on Isaac, I know he was born about 1849.

Also, Charles Wickliffe (the father listed on the death certificate) died about 1871 and Barbara Wickliffe (nee Jonas) could not have given birth in 1872. She would have been 60 years old!

It is important to pay attention to all of the details within a record. If not, you could be building a brick wall.

I am still learning to write citations in the Evidence Explained format, but here is what I have for this death certificate:

Texas, "Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982," digital image, ( : accessed 09 June 2016), Services, entry for Isaac Wickliffe, died 02 February 1934; citing certificate no. 8225, Texas Department of State Health Services, State Registrar Office, Austin.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Reconnecting with Family on Collateral Lines

Growing up, my sister and I never really got to know any of our extended family very well, especially the children our ages. I only had one aunt; her two children were the only cousins I knew and they were 10 and 12 years older than me. I have fond memories of shooting hoops with my cousins when I was about 4 or 5, but soon after that, they were too old to play with us. They were heading off to college and getting married. All my friends in school would come back from summer vacation or Christmas holidays, talking about all the fun they had with their grandparents, cousins, and other family members. As I listened to all of their stories, I longed to have that type of family.

My grandmother was a major part of my life. My parents divorced when I was young, and she moved in with my dad to raise me and a younger sister. She was the only grandparent I ever got a chance to know. The others were all deceased. She would take me to visit her sisters whenever we could make the trip. I got to know three of them; Mary Wickliffe Burnside, Lela Wickliffe Dunnahoe, and Lola Wickliffe Richardson. When we lived in Corpus Christi, we visited Lola. She had one son and I do not recall ever meeting him. Later, we moved to Dallas and Lela and Mary lived in Terrell - only about 40 minutes away. Lela never had children, and we visited with her the most. Mary had three children and several grandchildren. I only met them a few times over the years on these visits. This is a picture of my dad with my grandmother and my grand-aunt Lela.

I remember listening to my grandmother and her sisters as they recounted stories of days gone by. I remember my dad talking about his cousins and how they played marbles, went crawdad fishing and other exploits. They had all been so close in their younger days. Why didn't my generation get a chance to know the other cousins? Maybe it was the physical distance that prevented us from being close to the younger members. I always assumed they moved away from the area. Maybe it was the fact that the older generations, having all ready raised their own children, would rather reminisce with kin their own age, or maybe there was another reason. I never questioned it when I was a child and now it is too late to find out the answers.

The other day, while doing research on collateral lines, I came upon an obituary for the daughter of Mary Wickliffe Burnside. Her name was Helen Josephine BURNSIDE. I remember seeing her maybe three or four times in my life when I was young, but I recognized her picture immediately. She still looked the way I remembered her. She passed away 5 weeks before I discovered the obituary. She was listed as living in Forney, Texas - that is only about 30 minutes from me. I never knew that she had lived so close. The obituary also listed her children and they are all in the area. In the last couple of years, I have found numerous records for extended family within a short driving distance of where I live. Unfortunately, most of the records show it is too late to connect. They have gone home. If only I had researched the collateral lines earlier. It would have been nice to have sat down with my relatives and learned more about them. Instead, I have spent years only working on my direct ancestral line.

Genealogy isn't just about researching the ancestors who have gone on ahead of us. It is about connecting or reconnecting with family. In so doing, we learn more about ourselves. Today, I am more determined that ever to work on descendant research of the collateral lines. I want to reach out to those long-lost cousins to learn more about my heritage and to swap and preserve family stories.

Do you have collateral lines you know nothing about? I challenge you to research those lines and see what you can discover.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Seize the Day

As a genealogist, I love to spend my free time researching, photographing tombstones, organizing my paper and digital files, or scanning old photos and documents. So much so, that I tend to lose all track of time unless I set a time limit. Even though it is a passion of mine, it is even more important to remember to make time for family and friends. 

Spending my time tracing records and documents, I look for proof of familial connection; by blood or marriage. But family isn't that simple. Today I was honored to attend a high school graduation and afterwards, a family celebration. The young lady is not family by blood, but by choice. I was her caregiver when she was three, and have watched her transformation into a beautiful young woman. She has been best friends with my daughter for the last 15 years, and I love having her as part of our lives.

Family means many things to different people. To me, those who love you even when you are not very lovable, who want to be around you, who have your back and you have there's, who add to your life rather than take away from it – those people are family. I can’t imagine my life without those people in it – whether they are blood or not.

Remember to seize the day and make memories with those loved ones you call family. They create our narrative and make our lives whole.