Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Sarah Drexel Fell Van Rensselaer

Sarah Drexel Fell Van Rensselaer
1860 - 1929
St. Thomas' Cemetery
Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer at Find A Grave

Sarah Drexel was my great-great grandmother, daughter of financier (and 3rd great grandfather) Anthony Joseph Drexel. She married first, John Ruckman Fell in 1879. After his death in 1895 she married Alexander Van Rensselaer in 1898.

I create an entry for her at Find A Grave tonight, inscribing what is on the grave stone, though I'm not entirely certain the birth date is accurate. I confess it's been some time since I've done much research on her, but have a niggling feeling the August 28 date, might not be correct, and I've yet to find evidence to support the date. I mentioned in my post on Alexander last week that I have a copy of their marriage license. However, there's no birth date on the license for her -- only her age -- 37 years.

Alexander Van Rensselaer signed the license 18 Jan 1898. If Sarah Drexel Fell was 37 years old on that date, she could have been born at almost any time in 1860. Anyway, more work to do here.

As is usually the case with these little entries, this isn't near enough information to do my ancestor justice.

Picasa for Image Management

Last Tuesday I was full of grand plans to upload gravestone pictures to Find A Grave for Tombstone Tuesday. While trying to resize my images to meet Find A Grave's requirements, I got frustrated pretty quickly with some of the intricacies and oddities of my current software (which shall remain nameless).

So I downloaded Picasa as an alternative. I like that it's free and works with Mac, but I really had no expectations otherwise. In the little playing with it I've done in the last week, I see that it has tremendous potential for organizing photos and may well assist me with efforts to better identify and organize what I've got on my machine.

I'm still not sure about editing capabilities, but I don't do a great deal of image editing. My immediate needs are resizing and organization, which Picasa seems to be able to deliver.

I got my images resized and uploaded to Find A Grave and am ready to move forward with other family memorials.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bits and Pieces - Assorted Death Certificates and the Clues Therein

I find it curious that the highlight of my day is receiving a death certificate in the mail. I'm not saying this is abnormal, but simply an interesting observation of where my current interests lie.

In the past week I've received three death certificates for ancestors in my paternal line, and while none of them provided huge clues or broke down brick walls, they all had little bits of value.

Adeline Emma Bridge Stone (1827-1855). Given the little information I supplied on the request form, I'm actually surprised I even got this. Considering that my 3rd great-grandmother died in 1855, there was little additional information on the form, but it is a record from New York City in the mid-nineteenth century. I've been working on determining the definitive identity of Adeline's mother, and had half-heartedly hoped this might help. Sadly it didn't. But it did answer another of my questions... What caused her death at age 28, leaving my great-great grandmother motherless at age five? Answer: pneumonia.

John Stoddard McCormick (1889-1948). I really wasn't looking for answers with this one -- more to bring his documentation full circle and complete as much as possible. One piece I've gone back and forth on with my great-grandfather is the year he was born. The month and day, December 8, has been consistent, but other information has pointed to either 1888 or 1889. His death certificate lists 1889. He was born in Connecticut, not New York, so I suppose my next step is trying to track down a birth certificate.

Margaret Gilligan McCormick (1851-1927). I love having this one. I struggled for quite a while to prove that Margaret was John Stoddard McCormick's mother and my great-great grandmother, and I cherish every piece of information that links us together. My great-grandfather, Dr. John S. McCormick provided the "personal and statistical particulars." This tells me her father was John Gilligan, born in Ireland, and her mother Katherine, also born in Ireland. Unfortunately, Katherine's last name is hard to read or even guess at. But it's a tidbit I didn't have before.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Alexander Van Rensselaer

Alexander Van Rensselaer
1 Oct 1950 - 18 July 1933
St. Thomas' Cemetery

Alexander Van Rensselaer was the 2nd husband of my great-great grandmother, Sarah Drexel Fell. Many of my maternal ancestors are buried at St. Thomas, and while I have a good start in getting photographs of their graves, I have a number yet to locate. Alexander's stone is the first in the group of photos I have on hand, so as I've been a bit lazy about posting of late, thought I'd get started.

I need to go back and get a better look at this stone, as well as several others nearby, as the dates are quite hard to read. I strongly suspect the birth date on this stone might be wrong.

It looks like the birth year on this stone says 1851, but I've got a copy of his marriage license to Sarah Drexel Fell, which says he was born in 1850, and I'm using the date from the marriage in my genealogy. (And I'm kicking myself for not being more detail oriented when I shot this photo last year -- lesson learned.)

On a side note, I had grand plans for this post, which I'm hoping will get me back on track with my genealogy blogging. I'd hoped to get Alexander's Find A Grave entry up, but I'm having trouble resizing the images appropriately, which is frustrating me no end. Anyway, here's the link to Alexander Van Rensselaer's entry at Find A Grave, images forthcoming (though not likely before midnight at this point).

And the article on his death from the New York Times that I'd hoped to link to seems only to be available for a fee. Hopefully next week will be better.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - Elsie's Hideaway

In June I wrote about Stonover Farm and our family visit to a place that had a deep connection to our past. This week I received an email from someone who also has a connection to Stonover Farm. In his honor, I'm posting this tidibt from our visit.

Rumor has it (rumors I've heard, anyway) that this little cabin nestled in the woods above the farm was the writing hideaway of anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons.

The Parsons family has a deep connection to Lenox. My family is related to them through marriage, and I admit I don't know quite enough to know what Elsie's ties to Lenox were, but regardless, it's a beautiful little gem of a place tucked away in the woods with a wonderful (possible) history.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mapping Genealogical Data - The Albany Cluster

A few weeks ago, a colleague introduced a group of us at work to a resource called Dipity (dipity.com). Dipity is a timeline tool capable of hosting images, video, and text, presenting the results in one of several formats: standard timeline, list, flipbook, or map.

As soon as I saw this, I started imagining how I could try it with genealogical data. I find the ability to map historic events the intriguing part of this resource and for quite a while I've been wanting to find a way to visually associate genealogical events with geographic points.

One of the timelines I've been working on is Genealogy Data Mapping. This is a pretty basic use of Dipity, where my timeline is entirely text-based and consists of genealogical events I could associate with specific dates and locations.

The first thing I tried mapping was census data. I liked the idea of this in order to visualize my ancestors' residential patterns -- places lived and approximate length of time spent in a given place before moving on. Census data has two specific data points to map: (1) an exact date, taken from census form images, and (2) location - city/town, county, state. On the surface this works, but the problem I had was capturing the richness of the family data in a census. Who exactly was I mapping and emphasizing -- the head of household? The family group? One of the children in his/her life over time? I played with a few census time/map plots, but the dissatisfaction frustrated me. Perhaps with a better defined goal for my census timeline, say mapping individual ancestors irrespective of other family members listed in the same household, I'd have better luck. But I decided to move on.

Dipity allows you to enter/map a specific street address in addition to basic city/state geographical data. Thinking about this, I realized I had another type of genealogical data at hand with date/location points -- city directories. I've used the Albany City Directories for the past couple of years to research my paternal grandmother's ancestors, establish relationships, and pinpoint death dates between censuses. As such, I had a nice little set of addresses tied to specific individuals for specific years. I realize city directories technically include an entire family/household, but the entry in the directory itself is for one person, and multiple independent adults living in the same household (borders, extended family, etc.) appear to be listed in the directory individually.

Using my city directory data, I was able to map a interesting cluster in the downtown Albany area:

My McCormick and Gillespie ancestors did a fair amount of moving around Albany in the early part of the 20th century. I found it interesting to see the actual locations of the addresses and noticed patterns of residence. Even though the families moved several times (if not quite often), they tended to stay in specific areas -- the Gillespies particularly tending to reside within the same few blocks. (Clicking on each pin point on the map will bring up the Dipity entry.

I do wish there was a way to color code the entries to distinguish families in the map view, but for a free tool, it's not bad and I think has some interesting possibilities for projects. My next Dipity project will use images to present a standard historic timeline of a single family line.

Genealogy Data Mapping timeline