By Trayce Duran
Facebook has a new feature encouraging you to create ‘Your Story,’ and I have noticed friends start the process. The idea of recording your story is an interesting one that’s time has come to social media. But when you take a moment to think about it, isn’t that what we’ve been doing for centuries through scrapbooking, photo albums, and journaling? Is there an additional step that we can take to be more proactive in preserving our personal history beyond the above-mentioned hobbies? Yes, and it’s fun! It requires connecting with family in order to fill in the missing pieces and to document that information.
Theoretically the beginning of ‘Your Story’ starts with you, at your birth; or does it? Think this through with me: the long awaited, joyous day finally arrives! After (give or take) nine months your family gathers, potentially great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings, all come to celebrate your birth!
But there’s so much more to your story! Each person is a foundation stone in the creation of your history. You may have the opportunity to know and to be known by your intimate family, but there are those farther removed, like 2nd or 3rd cousins. Some family may live far away or even in another country. Distance can make relationships difficult to maintain, and likewise, so can tension within the walls of your own home. Then there are those who have passed on. Each person, past, present and future, plays a vital role in your adventure through life. So instead of thinking in terms of ‘your story’, let’s consider ‘your family hiSTORY’.
I was blessed by my Aunt Marie who laid a great foundation for the research of my family’s history through her deep desire to connect with our ancestors. She traveled to New Jersey and then on to England in search of information on relatives who had long ago passed. Marie thought that she had a solid link between our American relatives and those from England, but when I dissected the information I found a glaring gap, and now I have a puzzle to solve. Marie filled in a ton of pieces and we added enough information that I am at a critical point in confirming our history as far back as 747 AD! Marie played a vital role in mapping my story, our family history!
Recently while researching my paternal grandmother who passed before I was born, I found the paperwork from her immigration from Ireland to the United States dated 10 Oct 1909. Do I need to know that information for my story? Not really, but it’s so important to our family history! It was an exciting discovery! I never knew Anna, but when I fit pieces of the puzzle of her story into place, I am able to connect with her in a way I never thought possible, and continue to build our genealogy! One of my cousins has also begun searching out our family history and has a few pieces of recent events that I am missing, and I certainly have a ton to pass on to her!
So when you think on a grand scale about your story or better put, your history, there’s a LOT to consider. It’s so important to ask questions of great-grandparents, grandparents, and even your own parents. Listen to and document the stories that they tell. Perhaps you’ve heard that story told since you were a child, but get it in writing or write it down yourself. Ask to see family pictures. After your parents are gone you will have no idea who the guy is in the back with the funny ears, and more than likely you won’t have anyone to ask. Begin to build your story now by keeping a journal of important events, have your siblings do the same and build on that foundation, paving the way for upcoming generations to track family. Don’t be surprised to find that they are excited to join you on the journey and to help you fill in the missing pieces.
Tell us how your experience in family research is going, and if you have found any interesting relatives along the way! In a future post I will disclose a famous relative in my tree that has made research a little easier and fun!
Let us know if there is any way that we can help you on your journey!
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to reach out to us on our blog at
https://www.durangenealogy.com/the-public-genealogist or like us on Facebook.
By Eric Duran
One of my favorite core concepts of the field of genealogy is that of identity. When we think of the term identity we usually think of the ‘base’ facts that the governing officials use to distinguish you from every other person alive, such as the facts on your driver’s license; your name, general appearance, license number, etc. The only aspects of your identity that seem to matter are those that distinguish you from everyone else. After all, isn’t that the definition of identity? The identifiable nature of one person that makes them stand out from other people?
The answer to that question is both yes and no. Those details are very much a part of your identity, but they don’t tell the whole story. While there are many details of your identity that are not necessarily unique to only you, as your social security number is for example, there are many details, like your occupation or your hobbies that place you into a subset of humanity which makes you easier to locate from a researcher’s standpoint. This is where the concept ties very well into the field of genealogy. When searching for a given relative, your great-great grandfather for example, it’s easy to let the narrow and mistaken definition of ‘identity’ be the sole guidance to your search. We search for these ancestors by name, location, and age, using little else as evidence to locate them, and then become frustrated when his name doesn’t appear on a certain census, or when we can’t find a birth record in the correct time and place of his birth. These cases can be helped by broadening our definition of ‘identity’ and by forgetting the ‘concrete’ details of one’s identity in favor of searching for them by the ‘peripheral’ details of that person.
A convenient and common example is that of the misspelled name, a problem that anyone who even dabbles in genealogy will encounter frequently. If we hang on to the notion that a person’s name is the most or the only useful aspect of who they are, we can easily miss them due to a simple typo, misspelling, or to a recorder’s assumption.
I have recently been working on a case that involved a woman from South Carolina by the name of Rebecca. [More specific details are omitted for the sake of relatives still living] Rebecca was born in 1914, and I located her in the 1930 United States Federal Census at the age of 16. Here I noted her parents, whose names I had already gleaned from Rebecca’s death certificate, and some of the names of her siblings. The problem however was that in searching for Rebecca in the 1920 census I did not find her. She should have been 6 years old at that time, so why wasn’t she recorded at her parent’s home?
In studying the 1920 census, the family which I knew to be hers as they were at the same address, and bore the same names and ages as her siblings in the 1930 document, I came across a son, presumably a brother to Rebecca, whose name was ‘Baker.’ This young boy gave me a similar problem to Rebecca in that while he was here in 1920, I could not find him in the 1930 census. Another interesting detail is that this boy was six years old, the same age as Rebecca would have been at that time.
After some additional research I concluded that ‘Baker’ was actually ‘Becca,’ and that while the name was quite clearly recorded by the census enumerator as ‘Baker,’ and it was noted that Baker was male, this was beyond a reasonable doubt a mistake on the enumerator’s part. He had been told the name ‘Becca,’ but misheard the name as ‘Baker,’ and thus assumed it to be the name of a son. Rebecca was recorded in that document as a young boy named Baker and if we hadn’t known aspects of her identity beyond just her name, such as her family member’s names, address, and age, we could have made any number of assumptions as to her lack of appearance in the 1920 census, and would have never found her.
This case demonstrates the use of peripheral aspects of a person’s identity in researching them. Anything from a relative’s occupation, to their friend’s or neighbor’s names, to their hobbies can be used to locate them when the traditional and fundamental details about them are otherwise obscured. So I encourage you to learn as much as possible about your research subjects; you never know what seemingly insignificant detail could be the evidence you need to navigate the ‘roadblocks’ in your research.
By Trayce Duran
There are new terms being thrown around on a daily basis. I’m of an older generation and it can be hard to keep up with the latest trends. So let’s go exploring and pick a relatively new term that came into popularity around 2004-2005 and see where it leads.
What comes to mind when you think of life hacks?
Are they a current trend?
Have generations used them for centuries?
What are ‘life hacks’ anyway?
Here is Wikipedia’s definition: Life hack (or life hacking) is any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life. 
OK, that makes sense to me, and I love the idea. But is this really new to me, and do I actually use them? Maybe even use them everyday? Have I seen others take advantage of these time saving options? Have I seen life hacks in the lives of those who have passed on prior to 2004, like my parents, aunts, uncles, even my Grandmother (who passed away in 1974)? She had never heard of life hacks!
So first let’s ask what life hacks do I personally use today?
Now let’s take a look back to my Grandmother, affectionately known as Mom, born in 1891:
What did we learn as we explored ‘life hacks’? While the term is relatively new, the concept can be found throughout generations, often seen in old magazines under a moniker such as ‘tips for housewives,’ and as we look back in time we are sure to find some pretty useful ways to become more efficient and better organized.
 Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Life Hacks, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_hack (accessed 30 May 2019).
By Eric J. Duran
Researching your genealogy is highly personal. Learning about your family can give you insight into your own tastes and habits. It can alter your very identity in exciting ways through knowing and identifying with your roots. Sometimes through genealogy you can be surprised as you uncover family secrets that completely change what you previously thought about your ancestors, your family, and yourself.
The study of genealogy is very personal, partially owing to the general lack of interest that many people have for learning about the relatives who came before, and about their walk through history. For these individuals, history is viewed as irrelevant; it is seen as simply a list of inconsequential facts to be memorized with no personal context. For this reason, many of us who seek our genealogies do so in isolation, under the impression that nobody else is interested to see our findings.
But genealogy is really about connectedness. It’s about bonding with our family. Through studying prior generations, we can become intimately acquainted with relatives that we otherwise would have never had the chance to know. By searching about them, we can live the events of history through them. We can learn through them, we can rejoice and grieve with them. Genealogy is highly personal, but it’s also innately social in nature.
My goal through this blog will be to highlight the benefits of genealogy to the individual, to the family unit, and to society. I want to make a case for genealogy to those who are either indifferent to, or utterly opposed to the study of family history, and in so doing, I want to raise more awareness for the usefulness of genealogy, and why it’s a study that we should undertake together, not on our own. I want to show you why genealogy matters to you, and to your community. I want to bring your (and my) genealogy into the public eye, inviting discussion, collaboration, community, and engendering mutual interest in the past.
Eric is owner of Eric J. Duran Genealogy Services. He spent a year interning with Kane Detective Agency, a private investigations firm, where he learned investigative techniques including research strategies, database searches, and public record research. Eric has completed Boston University’s Certificate Program in Genealogical Research, and serves clients using stringent methodologies borrowed from both fields.