Sunday, January 11, 2015

How to Rekindle the Flame After a Genealogy Burn-Out

I admit it. Sometimes I lack motivation... and not just for laundry and cooking dinner and taking my kids to the park...

Sometimes I even lack the motivation to work on my very favorite hobby. Genealogy. Knowing William.


That's right people, I'm coming clean. Genealogy is like any relationship. You have to put something into it to get something out of it. Sometimes life can distract you, and before long you realize that you never spend real quality time together. Imagine my surprise when I signed in to my blogger account and realized that I had posted only once in the last year to this blog and had not posted a SINGLE blog entry in my other blog Southern Branches in 2014. So, I make a resolution that 2015 will be different. I sit down with William determined to work things out. But honestly, I don't even know where to begin or remember what I'm supposed to do. I walk around looking at various family history notes and googling random things, but I know deep down that I'm just spinning my wheels and it gets more and more depressing. So I stare at my computer...

So here it is January 11th. I've skipped the 10 days of the year that most humans are the most productive and skipped straight to burn-out... and its not even February yet!!! Well, NO MORE! I honestly have no idea if anyone else ever feels this way, but if you do, I've put together MY strategy for bringing back that loving feeling toward my genealogy. Y'all keep me accountable and lets see if this works.

1) A Challenge
Sometimes even just sitting down and trying to make a plan, set goals, or write a to-do list can be enough to make me throw in the towel. Take advantage of the work of other geneabloggers! They've already worked out the goals, tasks, and schedule. All you have to do is get started! Try Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-over or The Book of Me or the Family History Writing Challenge or 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. You can even try something NOT directly genealogy related. Try looking into an organizing challenge, a scrapbooking challenge, or a photography challenge like #photoaday or #captureyour365. There are many ways to move our family story ahead and get it out there. (Obviously you can set your own challenge too, like "Scan 10 photos a day". Just make sure that you specify a cut-off time, like 30 days or whatever, and tell someone else who will know if you give up. Post it on your blog, partner up with someone or join a facebook group.) I am participating in the Genealogy Do-over and continuing to plug away on Book of Me, both over at Southern Branches.

2) Take a Class
There's nothing like learning something new or getting a fresh perspective to really get me itching to do some research. There are SO many free webinars online for genealogists like me on a shoestring budget. There are even more webinars that cost only a few dollars or a minimal subscription. If you haven't already, then join your local genealogy society. If you have then GO TO THE MEETINGS! If you really want to make your genealogy a priority this year, try an institute or a conference. In addition to new information, you'll get the added benefits of exciting networking opportunities and travel! I have turned to Hack Genealogy's Bootcamps, Legacy Family Tree's webinars, and of course Dear Myrtle's Geneawebinars.

3) Just Take a Break!
Stepping away from genealogy for a few weeks or months is nothing to feel guilty about. Your research is not going anywhere. Hang out with some of your LIVING relatives. Maybe give your great-uncle a call. No interview, no agenda. Just chat with him. If you really want to make your sabbatical productive then take some quick notes about what you're working on and set some task-oriented, specific goals for when you get back. That way when you're ready you know right where to jump back in.

OK 2015. Let's see what you've got for me, because I'm ready. William... be patient with me. I'll always come back.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Solemn Opportunity

I have an extra special opportunity this week to make a trip across the country to see/meet lots of William's descendants and, if I'm lucky, do a few hours of on site research.  That's right!  On Friday I'm flying to Philly, the City of Brotherly Love!  I have hopes to visit the Philadelphia City Archives and at least one other repository and one other historical site.  Unfortunately, since it's been a pretty extreme winter and everything is covered in ice and snow, I won't be able to visit Mount Moriah cemetery.  

But the really sobering part of this is the reason for my visit.  William's family (and mine) has lost an incredible woman, who was loving and generous with a great sense of humor.  My Aunt Doris May McGrath McDaniel (born 10 Feb 1930 in Philadelphia, PA) passed away last week after having suffered from Alzheimer's Disease for some time.  

I will be flying up to represent and show the support of my grandfather (and her brother) Robert's, part of the family.  My grandmother Bea Hill McGrath has said that Doris was a crucial teacher and friend for her when she was 1st married to my Paw Paw and was living in Philadelphia where she knew no one.  Aunt Doris helped "raise her" as a newly married young woman.

My mother, who was born in Chester, PA, near Philadelphia remembers her being my PawPaw's (her dad) closest sister and recalls numerous fun visits to Aunt Doris's house when she was young.

I myself only remember meeting Aunt Doris twice since I was old enough to remember, but each stuck in my head and heart in a profound way.  The first was a trip to Philadelphia one 4th of July when I was quite young.  I remember staying at my Aunt Doris's house, eating food that I considered quite bland (me coming from Cajun country & all), barbecuing in the backyard, chasing lightning bugs and catching them in jars, watching the neighborhood 4th of July parade with horses & bagpipes, swinging and talking with newly discovered cousins on the front porch, and piling cut hydrangeas in a huge mound on the rocking chair out there.  Some of these memories might be blurred or faulty as I've idealized them in my mind over time, but it's a memory that is beautiful to me and that I relate directly to my Aunt Doris.

The other memory is more recent and less detailed, but an even more special connection in some ways.  On May 28, 2005 my Uncle Ed and Aunt Doris traveled over 1400 miles to come to my wedding... which was the exact same day as their 54th wedding anniversary!  What a beautiful example they have set for my husband and I.  And what a beautiful sacrifice for them to come share THEIR day by celebrating OUR day.  That's something I will never forget.

My PawPaw, Uncle Ernie, Aunt Doris, and Uncle Arthur at my wedding.

I feel blessed to have been a part of her family, however distant, and I'm honored to be able to celebrate her life with many cousins this weekend in her hometown.

Here is the link to her obituary.  If any of our family is reading this, I would love any comments, corrections, additions, or feedback.  Feel free to post a fact, special memory, or anything else about Doris McDaniel in the comments below.  As always all comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Beginning the Journey: What I wish I had known

I recently had a cousin call me up and ask me to help them get started with their genealogy. Well, as a genealogist, there is pretty much nothing better than that! Instead of giving him a list of links and tips in an e-mail, I thought I'd post a few things here so that others can send THEIR anxious genealogical beginners here, too!

In genealogy we always start with what we know and work backwards through time. The best way to do this is with old fashioned paper pedigree charts and family group sheets. There are many other fun and helpful worksheets for doing genealogy, and you can find most of them here at Cyndi's List.

Here are the Top 5 Things I Wish I had Known Before I Started:
1.)Not everything exists online. In fact some records don't exist at all. You may think they should be there, want them to be there. Maybe at one time they even were there, but the fact is many records were destroyed and some, even if it was legally required, simply were never created.

2.)DO NOT merge your tree with an online tree. EVER! Feel free to cite that tree as a source of possible information. But only use these as hints and never in bulk. Just don't do it.

3.)Cite EVERY source! I will probably be flogged for saying this, but even if you don't cite them "correctly" just jot down enough info that if in 3 years you need to find it again you can. (Example: 1940 federal census for Avoyelles Parish, LA "Robert Chenevert" [web address]) Is that a correct citation? Not even close. There's no punctuation, and I'm missing some information, like when I found it or when it was published. BUT if I needed to find it again I could probably do that without much trouble. THIS IS INVALUABLE to both you AND people you share your information with!!! Here is a great beginners article on citing your sources.

4.)Interview living relatives. Genealogists are known for being a bit morbid, but seriously, you never know how long you will have to ask your loved ones important questions about themselves and your family. I bet if you ask any genealogist who's been doing this for more than a few years, every one of them has a story of regret for what they didn't ask a loved one who is no longer with them. Don't neglect your living relatives for dead ones.

5.)Publish and back up your findings. This point is two-fold. Backing up your information, whether digital or physical, is crucial to any number of fields. It's no less important in genealogy. If you don't have your info in at least 3 places then rethink your system. Secondly, your work will never be "finished" so share your stories NOW. You don't have to publish and donate your work to a library, although companies like Blurb are making that much easier to do. Memorial pages on sites like, personal blogs, printing out a few charts and a short written summary to mail to cousins, or even syncing your tree with an online searchable tree like Family Search or Ancestry will get your information out there where it can be helping other people and working for you by fishing for new cousins!

For a little extra info, or for people who are audio/visual learners, check out these FREE webinars! (Also, many subscription sites and paid software programs offer free how-to videos, usually centered around their products.)FamilySearch Beginning Genealogy and If I’d Only Known! Beginner Genealogy Mistakes Videos

Well there you have it! A quick and dirty beginner's guide to starting your own genealogy journey! Happy hunting!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Book of Me

So... Did you miss me? Lol!

I've been out of commission since May due to my 2-, 3-, and 6-year-olds being at home full time over the summer. We've been incredibly busy, although I can't actually put my finger on what made us so busy. I'm sure other parents out there can relate. Anyway, now that we're back into the swing of school I have a little bit of time while my youngest is in mothers day out to hopefully get back into the swing of genealogy research!

Today on Mondays with Myrt, they discussed blogger Julie Goucher (of Anglers Rest) and her new 15-month-long series called the "Book of Me" Project. Weekly prompts will guide you to blogging, or privately writing, a "Book of Me." This is so valuable in our genealogy exploits and is so often neglected. Obviously 15 months is quite a commitment, but it can easily be done at your own pace. Even doing only a few of the prompts will leave such an important record for our children and grandchildren, as well as future genealogists. My hope is that I can talk my husband into doing it with me and we can publish a joint Blurb book in time for our 10th anniversary in about 21 months! Wish me luck on twisting his arm ; )

For the purposes of this blog and knowing more about William, I am hoping that some of you will join with me in journeying through this project. After all the quest to study our ancestors and the quest to know ourselves have always been inextricably tied! Some of the McGrath descendants of William are even talking about compiling a "cousins" book! What a wonderful gift to future generations and to each other! I will try to keep up with posting the prompts here, but you can also follow along on Julie's blog, the "Book of Me" facebook group, and

For week 1 the prompt was a commonly used psychology test. Ask yourself "Who am I?" 20 times.

Just to get us started, here is mine...

Who am I?

-I am a child of the One True King. Jesus is my savior and my life.
-I am the wife of an incredible man, David.
-I am the mother of 3 beautiful and very different children who challenge, bless, and amaze me everyday.
-I am a genealogist.
-I am a photographer, personally and sometimes professionally.
-I am a lover of books and learning.
-I am a total nerd.
-I am addicted to my iPhone.
-I am a proud owner of a brand new Toyota Sienna, the coolest vehicle ever, mini-van or otherwise.
-I am a procrastinator.
-I am a memory keeper.
-I am NOT Emily Post, June Cleaver, or Martha Stewart, housekeeping, cooking, thank you notes... not my strong suit.
-I am a recovering Kraft Mac-n-cheese addict (yeah, I had some yesterday).
-I am a singer, personally and sometimes professionally.
-I am a HUGE fan of Walt Disney World, the most magical place on earth.
-I am an imperfect perfectionist. Combined with procrastination, this can really be a problem.
-I am a blogger, facebooker, and pinterest pinner.
-I am chronically late.
-I am a lover of travel.
-I am a talker.

There you have it! Not sure it's supposed to be that wordy, but hey, I said I was a talker. : )

Until next time!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Anniversary to William and I!

Wednesday was the 1 year "blogiversary" of the Knowing William blog!

We also hit 1000 page views this week! Woohoo!

To celebrate I am posting one of my recent projects, even though it doesn't directly relate to William. I think he would forgive me since I'm training up the next generation of his descendants to love learning about family history. Last month my six-year-old son and I went on a family history road trip adventure!

It was a wonderful experience getting to hang out together, just the two of us, without daddy or his 2- and 3-year-old siblings. We learned all about history as we did some "detective work" on one branch of our Louisiana family.

While on our adventure, we took some documentary video footage and lots of pictures. He also kept a journal where he wrote and drew pictures about the things we did. Here are our finished products. Enjoy!

Click here to view our documentary video on YouTube.

Click here to view this photo book larger

The new way to make a photo album: photo books by Shutterfly.

You're never too young to start appreciating who your family is and where they come from. Check out my pinterest board "Family history for kids and non-genealogists" for ideas on activities and conversation starters for the future family history detectives in your life!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Luck of the Irish

In the dozen or so records I could've ordered to see if they might include William's specific birthplace in Ireland, each was equally unlikely. I chose his pension record to start with because of the incredible amount of genealogy information it would include even if it didn't reveal his county of birth.


As I was excitedly flipping through the scanned pages of the pension record I recieved I saw William's death certificate, a list of his living children's names and birthdates, his first wife's death certificate, a certified record from the church of his second marriage, death record for his second wife, affidavits from 2 of his long-time friends, a letter written by William himself, and at least 7 instances of his actual signature. (Click HERE to download the entire pension file as a PDF.) Then, on page 24, I found it!

As you can see it clearly states that William was born on 26 May 1826 in County Down Ireland. (I do have some conflicting sources on the year of his birth being 1924, but thats another post I guess.) WooHooooooo!!!!! It took me over 2 weeks of nearly shaking with over-enthusiasm before I could even calm down enough to write about it! I'll be posting more about Irish genealogy research and my plan for William in the next post, but for now I can tell you that the FIRST thing I did after the kids were in bed was learn all I could about Irish genealogy research that I could do from the US.

This is an Irish map with County Down highlighted in red. County Down just so happens to be the suspected burial place of St Patrick!

Later that same night I learned that non-catholic Irish Civil Marriage Registration started in 1845. Since I knew that William and Mary Park immigrated in 1852 and had their first known child in 1853, it can be assumed that they were married shortly before that. I guessed that it was 1851. I went to the website and searched the civil marriage records for William Park and Mary Weir. Low and behold... Voila!

I have now officially found a record of our William in his home country of Ireland! Just look at all the incredible information found in their marriage record: a parish of origin in County Down for William, the parish and county of origin for his wife Mary, William's father and father-in-law's occupations, and a witness that shares William's surname (a brother perhaps??).


That's an incredible windfall of information in just 24 hours. And it didn't stop there! Next time I'll talk about other Irish resources including Griffith's Valuation. In the meantime if you're interested in Irish family history you can register for a free webinar called Erin in the USA: Irish Research on this Side of the Atlantic which will be live tomorrow night (March 20th) from 8-9:30 Central time. William's records have seemed to fall right in my lap recently. And THAT'S what I call
...the Luck o' the Irish!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Everything I know about William...

William Park is my G-G-G-grandfather. According to his death certificate, filled out by his son William Jr, he was born in Ireland in 1824 to John and Jane (Wilson) Park. This is corroborated by the 1900 Federal Census which lists his birth in May 1824 in Ireland. I am currently focusing on finding a birth record that includes a town, county, or parish of birth in Ireland.

William came to Philadelphia, PA from Ireland via Liverpool on the "City of Manchester" with his 1st wife Mary. (I found her maiden name listed as "Weir" on an online pedigree chart, but no proof yet.) They arrived on the 28th of December 1852. Since church baptism records at First Reformed Presbyterian show that their son Alexander was born on 3 March 1853, this means Mary was about 6 or 7 months pregnant when she arrived in America…fun.

William was not your stereotypical mid-nineteenth century Irish immigrant. Most of the immigrants from the potato famine era arrived between 1848-1851. William and Mary arrived in late 1852. William was not only NOT catholic, but skilled in a trade. How much did the "poor Irish Catholic" stereotype affect his daily life? He arrived well after the 1844 riots. Did racism and violence affect his family and business? He was a veteran of the Union Army in the Civil War. Did this added with his skilled trade and protestant religion shield him from prejudice? Did Irish Presbyterians group closely together in neighborhoods the way groups of Irish Catholics did? All these insights into what life might have been like for him and his family are what I hope to discover through my continued research.

The passenger list of the City of Manchester shows that William brought a trade with him across the pond. He was a blacksmith. This one simple fact about his occupation has been more helpful than anything in tracing William's story. He is listed as a blacksmith on his passenger list, census records, city directories, and his death certificate. His son William Jr may have been a blacksmith also. I have found plenty of YouTube videos on old school blacksmithing, and I'm hoping to learn even more about it and how it influenced William's life.

About 17 months after the first shots of the Civil War were fired, William enlisted in the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, also known as the "Corn Exchange Regiment" due to the fact that the Corn Exchange Bank was offering a bounty to men who would enlist under them.

The Corn Exchange Regiment was a part of many significant battles from Antietam to Shepherdstown to Gettysburg. William was wounded at Shepherdstown according to the 1890 Veterans Census. The battle of Gettysburg was hard on the 118th, and the story of their time in that battle and of the life of the regiment is retold in a memoir by the survivors in History of the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers: Corn Exchange Regiment which is digitized and available for free at Google Books. Their perseverance was rewarded by being present at the signing of the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox. Despite a bitter war experience, members of the 118th Corn Exchange had pride in the part they played in the War Between the States. The men stayed close, with advertisements for reunions common in the Philadelphia newspapers for years to come. William's obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer invited "E D Baker Post No 8 [Grand Army of the Republic]and survivors of the 118 Corn Exchange" to the funeral at his residence. William's 1st wife Mary died on the 4th of September 1863 and is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery according to her death certificate. I'm not sure what happened to their three children when mom died and dad was off at war. Perhaps the congregation at First Reformed Presbyterian helped. Was there a relative in the city? I'm hoping William's pension record might have a tidbit about this. I'm honestly not sure where to check next!

William and Mary had at least three children:
1. Alexander Park born 3 Mar 1853 in Philadelphia, PA. He was baptized in the Presbyterian church on 2 Oct 1853 (baptism record from First Reformed Presbyterian can be found on, microfilmed at the Family History Library/Centers, and at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia). He does not appear in William's household in the 1860 census or ever again, but I haven't been able to find a death certificate either. William Jr later takes over the family business, lives in his father's house, and fills out his father's death certificate, lending further evidence to him being the eldest LIVING son.
2. Isabella Hays Park (my g-g-grandmother) born 5 Dec 1854 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 4 May 1855 at First Reformed Presbyterian. Married to Ellwood Wilson Hayes (my g-g-grandfather, son of Isaac and Sarah Hayes) on 3 August 1882 at Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church in Boyertown, PA (according to indexed church records on Died on 30 Dec 1938 in Philadelphia, PA according to the PA Department of Health website, but I have not ordered her death certificate yet
3. Jennie (Jane) V. Park was born about 1858. I'm not sure why, but there is no record of her baptism. Married to William Riehle between 1870-1879. They were living with her parents and their only daughter in the 1880 federal census. Died on 25 Jan 1881 in Philadelphia, PA and buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery according to her death certificate. She and William Riehle had one daughter named Margaret Elizabeth Riehle (27 Feb 1880 - 27 Aug 1881 according to baptism record and death certificate). Mary was baptized on 22 Aug 1881 at Eleventh St Methodist Episcopal Church, and died only days later, the year after her mother. All evidence in vital, church, and census records is that this was Jennie's only child. I have not tracked William Riehle further.

When the war was over, William's children needed a mother. He married Catherine Duffy (born 31 October 1831 in Ireland to Edward and Margaret Duffy) on 21 December 1865 at the First Reformed Presbyterian Church. Did they meet at church? Or live near each other? I still need to look at early marriage records at the Philadelphia City Archives and church records for confirmation. (I also want to check the city archives' birth registration 1860-1915 for Catherine's children.)

William and Catherine had at least six children:
1. Margaret Selina Park was born on 9 October 1866 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 7 April 1867 at First Reformed Presbyterian. Her christening record gives the date of her birth. Married to Joseph W Hayes in about 1866 according to the 1900 federal census. Joseph W is the younger brother of Ellwood Wilson Hayes who married Margaret's older sister Isabella, my g-g-g-grandmother. Margaret and Joseph Hayes had one known child named William. He was born in July of 1893 according to the 1900 federal census. Philadelphia marriage records indicate that he married Bertha Greenwood in 1918. Following them through the federal census, William and Bertha Hayes still had no living children in 1940. Margaret died sometime after 1920. I haven't yet been able to locate either her or Joseph in the 1930 federal census or city directories yet.
2. William John Park was born in September of 1867 in Philadelphia, PA. Died 6 weeks later on 11 Oct 1867 according to his Philadelphia death certificate.
3. Ellen Park was born on 4 September 1868 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 27 October 1868 at First Reformed Presbyterian. Her christening record gives the date of her birth. I'm at a bit of a dead end with Ellen right now. I lose her after the 1880 federal census. In the 1910 federal census, her mother Catherine is listed as having 9 children with 5 still living. Either this indicates that Catherine had 3 more infants that died and Ellen is likely alive or whoever reported to the census taker counted all of William's children (from Mary, too) in which case 2 of Catherine's children have died at this point. The 1900 federal census lists her with 8 children, six living, hmmmmmm. Lots of work left to do!
4. William Park Jr was born on 27 Oct 1870 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 27 April 1871 at First Reformed Presbyterian. His christening record gives the date of his birth. He seems to be listed with his father in an 1890 Philadelphia City directory, either as William who is a clerk, or as William Jr. who has taken over his father's blacksmithing trade. I lose track of William at this point. I'm unsure who or even if he married, but I have no proof of his death. A William Park Jr. was the informant on William Park Sr's death certificate in 1910 and his mother's in 1913.
5. David Park was born in April 1875 in Philadelphia, PA according to the 1900 federal census. He became a fireman by the age of 25. Married Margaret Ashmore in 1920 in Philadelphia, PA according to the city's marriage index. He was about 45 and she was about 40 years old. Since they had no children in their household in the 1930 federal census, it is unlikely they had any living children. I lose track of him after 1930. He was not listed in the 1935 Philadelphia City Directory.
6. Edward Henry Park was born on 24 April 1876 in Philadelphia, PA according to his death certificate. He became a plumber and lived at home almost his entire life. His death certificate lists him as divorced, but I'm not sure when this happened, who he married, or if they had any children. I'll have to check wills and obituaries. Died on 5 April 1915 in Philadelphia, PA.

Catherine died on Christmas Eve 1913 at their house on Olive St. She and every other member of the Park family that I can find records for are buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.

So far I do not have any leads on descendants of William other than those from my g-g-grandmother's line. It is possible that Ellen, William, or Edward had children, but I have not found any yet.

There is one other relative of William Park that I would like to research. In the 1880 federal census, William's household includes a nephew, also named William Park, who was born about 1866 in Ireland. This boy provides evidence that OUR William Park may have had a brother!

I would love to do some additional research on the house at 1230 Olive St. William was 1st listed at this address in 1880 and was still living there st his death in 1910. Several extended family members also resided at this address. William Sr, Catherine Duffy Park, and Edward Henry Park died there. In 1920 it was Catherine's oldest child Margaret and her husband Joseph Hayes who were living in the house. This is the last record of a Park living at 1230 Olive. By 1930 the house is no longer in the family as far as I can tell. Today this section of Olive Street no longer exists.