24 November 2014

organizing my digital genealogy and cemetery pictures

I've taken a lot of pictures! I've also scanned many files. I've studied how professional archivists and professional photographers organized their pictures, with 10,000+ files. One problem I found, was that the typical way of storing (and default way of my computer) is lots of folders by date. But sometimes folders get stuck inside of other folders. When I first made the goal of going as folder free as possible, I found I had over 2,000 duplicate files! If one file was stored in say Jun 2009 and the same file stored in Nov 2011, the file could be duplicated and stored twice. I've been asked by a lot of people how I organize my files. I hope this post may help.

All the effective organization systems I read about, stored files by date, without folders. I had previously stored them by surname, in surname folders. Sort of a digital way of the old paper filing system. But of course surnames can overlap, causing duplicates. I found that using Windows 7, I could easily search files, so all my files could be stored in one large folder and I could still easily find a file in seconds. I started relabeling my files, and immediately started seeing some interesting things. I love seeing things by date! I see more relationships and patterns. All the 1860's files look pretty similar, just like 1980's pictures will have a similar look to them. By seeing them in order, I could for example, point out to my grandpa, "this picture was taken when you were 15, do you remember it?" And yes, he did remember, it had just been awhile since he'd seen those people. It wasn't one of his personal pictures, but he remembered it because he could associate it with his age then.

I currently have only 5 genealogy folders. (I used to have about 200 folders.) My current folders:
1) My mother's files
2) My father's files
3) My father in law's files (I'm now caretaker of those records)
4) General gen files, info that can apply to all the files, like info about record collections, notes I took at meetings etc.
5) Me & my husband - scans of: certificates, pictures, cards etc for the family we started, more current stuff

I have one other folder on my desktop, labeled "Gen scans". That's my not completely processed working file. Until I can get it ready to be archived into my "Gen files" folder into 1 of the 5 folders sub-folders. "Gen scans" where I put stuff when I borrow a collection for a week to scan. Where I still need to relabel pictures, and lastly, tombstone pictures. As I load new files into "Gen files", from that working folder of "Gen scans", I back the files up on cloud, and an external hard drive.

I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my tombstone pictures dilemma. I had each cemetery in a folder, with county and date labeled. Pictures in the order I took them. I walked in rows and was careful to note family groups. So the order I took pictures was important because it showed family relationships. These are very small rural Virginia cemeteries on old farms, or tiny churches. But I also wanted to have these files be searcheable by surname and the date. In this case, not date taken, but the death date on the tombstone, (which would not hold the order of pictures taken). My recent solution to my challenge, to do both things I wanted (date and order taken): create a slide show in the order pictures were taken. In that slide show, I have started to write the place, and date pictures were taken, which the folder name had the job of doing previously. Then, after the slide show is complete, I label the cemetery pictures just like all the other files, by the date on the record and a surname, or the whole name. If say the file is muster roll, I'd list it as "1863-07-David Dunn-muster roll-death". The year, then month, then day, holds all the records in chronological order. I have several thousand files but If I type in "David Dunn", only a couple files show up, all relevant. Bonus, the search result is only a few seconds! If I only have a year, I type just the year. If my grandma says "I know that picture was between 1940 and 1946, but that's the best I can do for a date" then I label the picture "1940s-Stowe AZ" (approximate date, surname and place).

Example of my filing system
I will start posting the cemetery files here in blog posts, then if you look on the "pages" part, far right, you'll see the "cemetery slide shows" page.

PS. My family pictures are stored the same way. I have just one folder, in "my pictures" labeled "pictures archives." They are backed up on external hard drive and cloud. As my camera and computer by default add in new folders, I routinely go through them, re-label and then archive. Then delete those new folders. Just one folder with several thousand pictures (I have the archive of all the family wedding pictures etc) and its all easily searchable.

27 October 2014

Virginia WWI questionnaires

Did you know, that in Virginia, if you served in WWI, and you survived, you were required to fill in a questionnaire? I'm told that Virginia was the only state that did this. I find it an amazing record, and I'm glad it was done. There's questions like  "What effect, if any, did your experience have on your religious belief?" Questions about opinions of being overseas. Return to civilian life questions, like: what occupation? Married? Mother, father, spouse, children? Religion? Citizen? Voter? If shell shocked? If possible a picture before and after war. (The few of my relatives, I have not seen pictures included. But a relative sent me a picture of Giles in uniform) Just an amazing amount of information, and in their handwriting!

I first found out about these records on Library of Virginia's website. (state archives). I just did a general search by several surnames, one at a time, and this database popped up with results. I was amazed that not only was it there, but I could download the images for free!
Here is an information page on LVA. It says the collection has 14,900 records!

This link takes you directly to the database of WWI questionnaires: http://lva1.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/F/?func=file&file_name=find-b-clas13&local_base=CLAS13

Here is one example I got. Giles Alvin Gliborne, son of William J. Cliborne and Hester Dortch. Hester's father was Alvin Dortch. You can click on images to view full screen. Alvin filled his survey in, in 1922. Hope you can find one of your Virginia relatives in this amazing collection!

02 October 2014

Francis Gray Brown, adopted

Francis Gray 1912
Here is what Francis Gray looked like when our family last saw him in 1912. He is the son of Alginon Gray and Martha Dortch. His father had died, his mother was living with her parents and brothers and sisters close to her age, in a hotel in Kankakee, IL that his grandmother Tennessee Jordan Glover was sole proprietor. (Martha's mother).

Francis' mother was about to remarry and Francis and his brother Hoyt went to temporarily visit or stay with another relative who had children. Sally Dortch Vick (Martha's sister) was waiting to see her nephews. She found the boys hadn't arrived, but instead the relative meeting the boys took the boys all the way to Richmond, VA to be adopted. Sally telegraphed the news to Martha who arrived on the train, with a picture of the boys, most likely this one, to try to find the boys but it was too late.

The people who adopted Francis and Hoyt were Howard Henry Brown and Alice Lucas Johntson. They had a fruit orchard farm in Crozet, VA, part of Albemarle, VA, a little ways outside of Charlottesville, VA.  The Browns had never been able to have children. When Francis turned 21, the Browns had searched and found Martha Dortch, living in Winston Salem, NC. They took the boys to meet their mother. Martha's oldest child from her second marriage was named Virginia. She was about 16 years old. She told me what had happened, because our family (Francis sister Fannie Gray) only knew that the boys were taken and put in an orphanage in Richmond, VA. When the visit with the Browns and the boys was over, Virginia went back and spent an enjoyable summer in Crozet with her brothers and the Browns. Virginia said Francis kept in touch with them, but she lost track of Francis about 1950. Virginia said Francis named a daughter after her.

I found someone in Hoyt Gray's family. Hoyt junior and his wife went to visit Francis in Washington DC, the "Home for the Incurables" hospital. He was dying from cancer, late 1957. This was all we knew about Francis. We knew he was married, but no clue what his wife's name was. He married after the 1930 Census.

I found out that Washington DC death records are public 50 years after the date of death. I found online death records and burial permits, even for the year 1957, but could not find Francis Gray or Francis Brown. So I wrote to request the record. I stated that he was illegally adopted and met his birth mother, so I wasn't sure which info would be given on his record and gave the info for both parents.
Brown's house that Francis & Hoyt were raised at

The death certificate was found, I got it yesterday! The informant was Grace Omohundro Brown, his sister in law. The Browns were listed as parents. He died in Sept 1957 and is buried at Mt. Olivet cemetery, same place as Grace. The only thing incorrect was that he was listed as born in North Carolina. Hoyt was born in Roanoke Rapids, but Francis was born in Knoxville, TN, I have his birth record. Francis was listed as married, and that his wife was Olive Barnett. He was an auto mechanic. I hope to one day find his family to learn more about him, and tell him more about us. 

PS. My family is Fannie Gray, daughter of Alginon Gray and his first wife Theresa India Dortch. Theresa and Martha were sisters.