Monday, September 5, 2016

Tracing LDS Ancestors

My husband's family has a long history in the LDS Church. Every single one of his third-great-grandparents were members of the Church. One family even heard the gospel preached in the Nauvoo area in 1831.

For one of my college classes I gathered as many histories as I could find and compiled them into an enormous collection. I pulled out many of the stories related to events in church history told from the perspective of his ancestors. This rough & clunky version lacks photographs and historical background, but the essential testimonies of the events are still there. I printed a large fan chart from FamilySearch and numbered each ancestor. Then, as I found stories in assorted places, I copied them into Scrivener with the number and the name of the ancestor in the title. (Easy sorting!)

FamilySearch has a Wiki page dedicated to tracing LDS ancestors. I especially like the Mormon Migration collection (ship passages from Europe & the British Isles) as well as the Pioneer Overland Trail collection (pioneer companies). Both collections include links to newspaper articles and journals for information about the specific voyage or pioneer company. My ancestor may not be highlighted but they were still present for the events that happened on the journeys.

Have you had any luck seeking stories about your ancestors?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

DNA Testing

My father was adopted as an infant. He was able to learn of his mother's name from court documents. She lived close to my family's home -- I often rode my bike past her neighborhood. She gave a few possible names as fathers, so my dad had his DNA tested. I am still learning (a lot) about DNA research.

I watched a video here: that explained many details about DNA tests and finding common ancestors. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Almost done & some helpful links!

My family history will never be completed, but I am almost done with my family history degree! I have adopted a get-her-done attitude and am making steady progress. In just over two months I will be able to walk across the stage as a college graduate. I am thrilled!

I want to find some way to share all of the discoveries that I am making. Technology has certainly simplified parts of the family history process, especially education.

  • BYU's Family History Library is one of the largest. They have made many videos about research appealing to a wide variety of skill levels. Here's the link to their youtube channel.
  • RootsTech 2016 was amazing. I attended 14 sessions and watched several more when I returned home. This website includes over 20 hours of archived class videos for 2016. I especially enjoy Paula Williams Madison's talk about the benefits of indexing for her family.
  • I love digitized newspapers. Wisconsin's Door County newspaper website is amazing. I love the partial word completion that helps me find alternate spellings. I have spent many productive hours learning about the comings and goings of family members (Madoche, McDermott, Jergeson/Jorgenson, and others) through the weekly newspaper. Englebret and Mary Jergeson had fourteen children, but only five survived well into adulthood. The others all died of diseases that we are now immunized for, including seven deaths from tuberculosis (consumption), plus others from scarlet fever, and diphtheria.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Useful Links & Random Blatherings

I am still continuing my pursuit of my bachelor's degree. I have three classes through BYU Independent Study, including British sources, paleography, and Historian's Craft. I am trying to gain every bit of knowledge that I can from these classes. Ultimately, I end up rereading my notes and learning more each time.

I am finally starting to grasp the concept of a research plan and a research report. I have started to write a compiled lineage as I work, adding appropriately formatted sources at the bottom (Whoa!). Working this way has made my research more direct and thorough. I found a blog that explains research plans in many ways:

My two current research projects are the Barnes family in Cheshire, England and the Binley family in Holmes County, Ohio.

I am currently super distracted as I attempt to work on classes. I did a lot of research while I was in Utah in June, and I am delaying typing up my research logs & writing research reports. My laptop is a 17' functional dinosaur. It works but it is way to bulky & weighty to carry around. Hopefully, I can find a  reasonably priced, smaller version before my next outing. I tried just using the ipad but it was not good for anything beyond transcribing short texts.

I felt compelled to research a friend's family after seeing a pedigree from 1991 in circulation on my desk several times throughout the last month. I tried back in the day but did not have enough knowledge about British records. I was able to discern relationships and find data to reinforce the feelings. 

I strongly believe that life continues beyond the grave, and once we begin the great work of gathering the dead, we are given heavenly help to find those who wish to be found.

Happy searching!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Court Cases

For one who's frequently confused about the legal system, the course "History and the Law" has been a challenge. I am trying to learn all that I can for my next midterm & processing documents that I have already seen.

John Buck signed an indenture with his (uncle?) Moses Donaldson. Tonight, I found the meaning in Bouvier's Legal Dictionary (1856):

INDENTURE, conveyancing. An instrument of writing containing a conveyance or contract between two or more persons, usually indented or cut unevenly, or in and out, on the top or, side.
2. Formerly it was common to make two instruments exactly alike, and it was then usual to write both on the same parchment, with some words or letters written between them, through which the parchment was cut, either in a straight or indented line, in such a manner as to leave one-half of the word on one part, and half on the other. The instrument usually commences with these words, "This indenture," which were not formerly sufficient, unless the parchment or paper was actually indented to make an indenture 5 Co. 20; but now, if the form of indenting the parchment be wanting, it may be supplied by being done in court, this being mere form. Besides, it would be exceedingly difficult with even the most perfect instruments, to out parchment or paper without indenting it. Vide Bac. Ab. Leases, &c. E 2; Com. Dig. Fait, C, and note d; Litt. sec. 370; Co. Litt. 143 b, 229 a; Cruise, Dig t. 32, c. 1, s. 24; 2 Bl. Com. 294; 1 Sess. Cas. 222.

I haven't checked to see if there was really an indenture on the land records.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Writing a Narrative History

I have taken two different classes that have required taking lots of little facts and details and translating them into a narrative biography. The process that I learned makes it "simple" to take anyone's facts and make a story.

  • (Before the first step): Talk to living descendants. What stories do your family members already know about an individual?
  • The first step for me in writing a simple biography is to check for an obituary that gives dates and details about an individual's life and values. Also, perhaps someone has already written a short biography about the person. Check with family members and societies for these records (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers for example).
  • Next, trace each individual in the family through the census records until his or her death -- as far as is reasonable. I record everything on a family group sheet and/or in a timeline. Many times the solutions to family mysteries are found in tracing their children.
  • Then, check county or state vital records for births, marriages, and deaths. Once again everything is recorded and analyzed.
  • Find a map that shows the area at the time of the person's life. David Rumsey Historical Maps has wonderful resources.
  • Check out local and county histories for each area the person lived. Many books have become free of copyright restrictions and are now posted online. and are two sites with many historical publications. For example, I could search for "Franklin County Ohio" and come up with several books.
  • If you haven't already, make a simple timeline to see how events and people fit together. This was an especially useful tool in my great-grandma Helen's life. 
Dorothy, York, Helen, baby Donald, and Harold Donald Martin (from previous marriage)
    • Helen (Keeler) Martin lived in Lewiston, Idaho with her husband York Martin. On 17 July 1929, she gave birth do a baby Donald. He lived for about five months and then died on 15 Dec 1929 of marasmus (a form of malnutrition). Meanwhile, York Martin became ill with liver cancer and passed away on 3 Jan 1930. Talk about major life stressors! Grandma Helen gave birth, struggled with a sick infant and husband, and then lost both of them in about two weeks. York was allowed to go home for Christmas before he died; Grandma Peggy was conceived during this visit and born nine months later. (Yay!) Before making the timeline, I did not know how each individual event played together in the story of Helen's life.
  • Look for major events that happened during your ancestor's life. What about the Civil War? the Great Depression? Read in the local and county histories for ways that events affected your ancestor.
  • Lastly, if your ancestors were part of early Mormon pioneer history, check out the links in the sidebar for amazing resources. 
Once I began writing the first history, I found the amount of information overwhelming. The Door County Library digitized many early newspapers, so it was possible to view many details about the lives of family members. I had to decide how long I wanted the story and what information to include. 

Please note that I don't like feelings put into stories. If I don't know that John Doe smiled when he looked around his farm, I don't want to write it. Once I read "The Secret Life of a Developing Country (Ours)," I realized that my values and thought process is very different from someone several hundred years earlier.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

John McDermott and Family

by Jenna C. Smith

            John and Margaret (Rourke) McDermott left Ireland during the great potato famine. Beginning in 1845, a fungus ruined Ireland’s potato crop. A few days after the potatoes were harvested, they turned into a slimy, black rotten mass. Diseases caused by malnutrition spread throughout Ireland. Irish Catholics, including the McDermotts, were at a disadvantage because they were prohibited from purchasing land or having a profession. Many rented small, five-acre plots of land from absentee landlords.[1]  Within five years, the Irish population was reduced by twenty-five percent due to death and emigration. The McDermotts immigrated to Canada in 1847.[2]  The family included John, Margaret, and three sons, Patrick, John, and Michael, when they appeared in Catholic Church records in Quebec.[3]

John McDermott and Margaret Rourke
Patrick McDermott born 17 Mar 1842 in Ireland
John McDermott born 1845 in Ireland
Michael McDermott born 15 June 1846 in County Leitrim, Ireland
Francis (Frank) McDermott born 24 Mar 1849 near Melbourne, Quebec
Mary McDermott born 20 Apr 1851 near Leeds, Ontario, Canada
Annie McDermott born 21 June 1854 in Ontario, Canada

John McDermott and Mary Neagle
Bryan McDermott born 2 Mar 1856 near Stratford, Ontario
Thomas McDermott born 11 July 1857 near Waterloo, Ontario
Catherine “Kitty” McDermott born 15 Mar 1859 in Ontario Canada
Joseph McDermott born 11 Jul 1862 near Kinkora, Ontario
Margaret “Maggie” McDermott born 4 Mar 1864 near Kinkora, Ontario

The 1851 Canadian census shows John living in Melbourne, Sherbrooke County, Quebec with his wife, Margaret, and children Patrick, John, Michael, Francis, and baby Mary. The family reported their religion as Roman Catholic, and John is working as a laborer.[4]  The family moved from Quebec to Ontario between 1849 and 1851.  John and Margaret had one more child, Annie, in Ontario before Margaret died in Canada,[5] probably from disease or childbirth. She was only about thirty-five years old when she died, leaving John with six young children ranging in age from a baby to age thirteen.
John soon married Mary Neagle, who was also born in Ireland. They had five children Bryan, Thomas, Catherine (Kitty), Joseph, and Margaret. By 1862, John and Mary lived in a one-story log home in Perth, Ontario, Canada West with seven children.[6] Sometimes, large families would hire their children out to have fewer mouths to feed and to provide additional income to the family. By 1862, Michael and John Jr. were living away from home. Michael eventually became a blacksmith, so he was probably working somewhere as an apprentice. John Jr. was living with James Madden’s family in Perth.[7]  The Maddens, McDermotts, and Madoches would eventually be neighbors in Wisconsin, and Maggie McDermott married Jerry Madden.
John’s second wife, Mary, died and was buried in Port Huron, likely between spring 1865 and 1867 when the family moved to Wisconsin.[8] Mary Neagle McDermott was in her late forties when she died.
John never remarried but continued working as a farmer and raising the children with everyone working together. The McDermotts were enumerated in Forestville, Door County, in the 1870 and 1875 census years. In the 1870 census, John is listed as a farmer who is unable to read or write. Mary and her siblings attended school.[9]
John McDermott went through the process to become a United States citizen. He immigrated to the United States, arriving at Port Huron, Saint Clair County, Michigan in May 1864. Four years later, he made a declaration of intention at the circuit court of St. Clair County, Michigan on 30 Apr 1868. He applied for final citizenship in Door County circuit court on 17 Feb 1874 stating that he had lived in the state of Wisconsin for at least one year and the United States for five years.[10]
John McDermott purchased one hundred twenty acres in section 11 and section 14 of Forestville on 20 Nov 1875 under the 1862 Homestead Act.[11] The land was swampy and “poor” according to surveyors, with swamps, two streams, and hemlock, cedar, sugar, and birch trees. John owned land of his own, never to be taken from him or his heirs, and he made certain of the land staying in the family in his will when he wrote,
“It is one of the conditions of this will that said Bryan McDermott is not to or shall not during his lifetime sell, dispose of, or convey my said homestead, herein described, to any person except to some one of his brothers or sisters, or to some one of his half brothers or half sisters.”[12]

Mary Anne McDermott was born into poverty in Quebec, Canada and moved with her family to Ontario, Canada while still a toddler. Her mother died when she was about four years old. Her father remarried and had five more children. The blended family moved to the United States when Mary was about thirteen years old. Her stepmother died in the mid- to late-1870s while the family was still living in Port Huron, Michigan. Her father, John, next moved the family to Door County, Wisconsin where Mary spent the next ten years attending school and caring for her family.
In June 1880, John McDermott was living in the Forestville Township with six of his eleven children and listed as a farmer.[13] The census taker noted that John had consumption or tuberculosis. “Tuberculosis seemed to consume people from within with its symptoms of bloody cough, fever, pallor, and long relentless wasting.”[14] The disease was prevalent in Europe in the 1800s, causing one of every seven deaths. The disease needs dark, damp, and poorly ventilated facilities to be transmitted. At least ninety percent of people who were infected with the disease did not develop symptoms. The disease spread easily when an infected individual coughed, sneezed, or talked and could lie dormant for decades before flaring up and killing the victim.
John McDermott died in 1880 from tuberculosis. At least two of the youngest McDermott children died from tuberculosis. Kitty McDermott Schraw died in 1901. Joseph McDermott died in 1922. Perhaps, Mary Neagle died from the disease.
Because of the long, slow wasting nature of tuberculosis, John had time to leave a will and detailed life story for his obituary. John McDermott died at home about two months after the census on Sunday, August 15, 1880 at the age of about 65 years. He was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Algoma, Kewaunee County, Wisconsin.[15]
“On Sunday evening, 15 Aug 1880 John McDermott died at his home at about 65 years. He was born in County Leitrim, Ireland and immigrated to Canada in 1847 where he remained for several years. He immigrated to Port Huron, Michigan in the spring of 1865 and stayed there for two years. His second wife, Mary, was buried in Port Huron. He immigrated to Wisconsin in about 1868 and lived in Forestville until his death. Seven of his ten children were single when he died.”[16]

John McDermott’s last will and testament was written 17 June 1880 in Forestville, Door County, just a few days after the census taker visited. Bryan McDermott, the oldest son of John with Mary Neagle, submitted the last will and testament of John McDermott in court on 2 Nov 1880.[17] John arranged the payment of all of his debts and bequeathed his homestead to his son, Bryan McDermott. Additionally, Michael, Ann, Thomas, Catherine, Joseph, and Margaret McDermott were to each receive a sum of fifty dollars each, one child each year getting fifty dollars, starting with the oldest. A restriction was added that Bryan McDermott could not in his lifetime “encumber” the property for any amount more than one hundred dollars.[18] Plat maps from later years show that several of John’s children owned portions of the property.[19]

[1] Digital History, “The Irish Potato Famine,” : site updated 19 Oct 2013,

[2] “Deaths, McDermott,” Weekly Expositor Independent, 26 Oct 1888.
[3] Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967. accessed 18 Oct 2013.
[4] 1851 Census of Canada East, Melbourne, Sherbrooke, Canada East; district 11, page 21 (printed), John McDermott family; digital images,, :accessed 8 May 2013.
[5] “Deaths, McDermott,” ibid.

[6] 1861 Census Canada. Ellice Township, Perth, Ontario; ED 3, 46, lines 38-46, John McDermott family; digital images, accessed 8 May 2013.

[7] Ibid, ED 3, 28, lines 29-31, James Madden family; digital images, :accessed 9 May 2013.
[8] “Deaths, McDermott,” ibid.
[9] 1870 US Census, Door County, Wisconsin, population schedule, p 20 (stamped), lines 1-8, digital images, : accessed 2 Sep 2013.

[10]“Wisconsin, Door County, Petitions for Naturalization 1893-1903,” vol. 1 p 85. accessed 5 Aug 2013.

[11] Wisconsin, General Land Office Records, Bureau of Land Management, US Department of the Interior. Entry for John McDermott. Volume 178, 380.

[12] McDermott, John. Last Will and Testament. Probate file in my possession from Registrar of Probate, Door County, Wisconsin.
[13] 1880 US Census, Door County, Wisconsin, population schedule, index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 05 Sep 2013), John McDermott 1880. Forestville, Door, Wisconsin.

[14]Rudy Schmidt, “Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms: Consumption,” Antiquus Morbus, :accessed 19 Oct 2013.
[15] “Local Jottings,” Algoma Record Herald, 26 Aug 1880.
[16] “Deaths, McDermott,” ibid.

[17] “Legal,” Door County Advocate, 14 Oct 1880, 3.
[18] Door County, Wisconsin Probate File, copies from Registrar in Probate. Eugene Madoche and John McDermott.

[19] Randall and Williams, Illustrated atlas of Door County, Wisconsin, Randall and Williams, 1899, Union and Clay Banks, : accessed 19 Oct 2013; Hixson, W. W. & Co. Plat Book of Door County, Wisconsin. (Wisconsin: W.W. Hixson & Co, 1923) : accessed 19 Oct 2013.