Thursday, February 28, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 28: Wood

And finally, last but not least, is the Wood family, of unknown European origins, they are said to have been from Maryland before going south to North Carolina and then west to Tennessee and finally Kentucky. They married into the Smith family.

Family History Writing Challenge.

Well, I really enjoyed this challenge although I didn't do much extensive writing, I did get my pre-existing family histories up to date and added sources and images. Since they are now presentable to the public, I've listed links to all of them on the side of my blog.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 27: Williams

The Williams family are of unknown European origin but by the 19th century, they were in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania. They married into the Godshall family.

Family History Writing Challenge.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 26: Wahr and Bauer

Almost done!

The Wahr family are relatively new to me, having only discovered the maiden name of one of my ancestors recently, so there is not a whole lot of information but enough to dedicate a chapter to them. Originally from Wurttemberg, they spent about 7 years in Alsace-Lorraine, France before immigrating to America and settling in Allegheny/Pittsburgh. They married into the Bauer family and so I thought this would be a good time to also post the Bauer chapter. I originally skipped this one because it was already up to date but in light of finding the Wahr family, I had to amend a couple little bits. Keep in mind, I've edited out a lot of info to respect the privacy of living people. The Bauers came from Saxony, Germany and settled first in Butler County before migrating into Pittsburgh, then out to Reading, and finally Philadelphia.

Family History Writing Challenge.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 25: Springer and Sutch

Another two from opposite sides of my tree. Springer is an 18th century family who migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio and married into the Pike family, though their European origins are unknown.

Sutch are also of unknown origins but settled in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and married into the Gilbert family (who married the Rorer family, then Fallows).

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 23: Scioli and Smith

Two families that probably could be more different! Scioli is an Italian branch from my dad's side that immigrated to Philadelphia sometime in the mid to late 19th century, I still don't know exactly when or from where. However, the Biello family, who married into the Scioli's and don't yet have enough info to have their own dedicated chapter, where from Monterodui. The Scioli's married into the Demore (D'Amore) family.

The Smith family, on the other hand, is on my mom's side and is a Scotch-Irish colonial family who initially settled in Virginia for a few generations before making their way to Kentucky and eventually, after a few more generations, to Alabama and Pennsylvania.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 21: Reiff, Rorer, Russell

Playing catch-up again here.

Reiff is another Swiss/German colonial Pennsylvania family who started out with the Reformed Church but converted to Mennonite and settled in the Skippack area of Montgomery County. They married into the Godshall family.

Rorer is yet another a Swiss/German colonial Pennsylvania family but not a part of the Mennonite community that settled in Montgomery and Bucks Counties. They settled in the Frankford area of Philadelphia and were founding members of the Presbyterian Church there. In later generations, they did move out to Montgomery County but to the Springfield Township area. They married into the Fallows family and much like them, were very involved in the community. 

The Russell family came from Northern Ireland and immigrated to Pittsburgh sometime in the 1870's. They married into the Bauer family (Anna Jane Russell was the woman previously discussed as the alcoholic who was estranged from her family).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Every Record Tells a Story

Recently, as I previously mentioned, a bunch of death certificates I'd ordered months ago finally arrived and as I gleefully analyzed them, I found them to be full of revelations, one of which was actually a little emotionally moving.

As I've mentioned before, my grandfather, known to me as "Pop", grew up without his own father in his life. According to Pop, after his parents divorced, his father (James Edward Bauer I) remarried to a woman who did not want anyone in her family or social circle to know her husband had previously been married and even had children. Divorce was still taboo in those days (the 1930s) so she forbade her new husband from seeing his children, at least in public. Pop recalls that he was told not to acknowledge his own father if he happened to run into him in a public place. Of course, James didn't have to go along with this, he could have told his wife that he was going to be a part of his children's lives whether she liked it or not. He chose to abandon them instead. 

By 1940, Pop's mother had remarried and moved to Philadelphia with her children. This probably made having a relationship with his father, who was still living in Reading, all the more difficult even after he divorced the evil stepmother sometime around 1950. It wasn't until after James remarried for the third and final time to a kindly woman named Alma in 1951 that the gap between father and son began to bridge. Apparently, Alma was the driving force behind their reconciliation but despite this, Pop and his father never grew particularly close and so we didn't know much about this branch of our tree. Some bridges just can't be rebuilt.

Some time ago, I discovered that James' abandonment of his family had deeper roots. Thanks to census records, I had found that James' own parents, Edward William Bauer and Anna Jane Russell, had separated but this time it was the father the children stayed with. This prompted all sorts of questions with unknown answers. Why did they separate? Why did the children stay with their father Edward? Did this somehow impair James' ability to be a good husband and father? I tried to remind myself that separation and divorce were not completely unheard of even in the very early 20th century and that it could have just been "irreconcilable differences" that drove Anna and Edward apart. It didn't necessarily mean Anna wasn't still involved in her children's lives. But in my experience it's usually difficult to find a woman who would so readily give up custody of her children unless something much darker drove or force her away. 

Today, I finally got a look at Anna's death certificate. I actually had to order two because I wasn't sure when she died and the Pennsylvania Department of Health Death Indices don't give you much information to go on. I was actually worried neither of them would be the record I was looking for but when I saw Anna's father clearly listed as Robert Russell on one of them, I knew I had the right Anna. 

And then, there is was . . . cause of death: Acute Alcoholism. She was 31 years old.

Acute Alcoholism as cause of death for 31 year old Anna.
A sad death following her sad existence living alone in a
boarding home for the last 4-5 years of her life.
Poor James. The poor family. Anna's drinking must have been so severe that either her husband banished her from their home or she left on her own accord, knowing she was no longer fit to be a good wife or mother.  Of course, it's possible her drinking began after the separation, in her loneliness and anguish over the loss of her children. During this time period, it would not be unusual for the courts to rule in favor of the father regarding custody, which is probably why so many women stayed in unhappy marriages, so they wouldn't lose their children. And acute alcoholism I believe refers to alcohol poisoning, not organ failure due to long term consumption of alcohol, so she may not have necessarily been drinking for very long. However, a key factor is in the contributing cause of death on Anna's death certificate. It's hard to read but my mom and I worked out that it was probably menorrhagia nonpuerperal and that she'd be suffering from it for 42 days. Menorrhagia refers to menstrual bleeding and nonpuerperal means it was unrelated to pregnancy or giving birth. In other words, she was having a 42 day period which my mom, an RN, explained could have been happening because the alcoholism was making it difficult for her blood to clot. This supports the idea that she had been drinking for some time.

Another supporting factor on the record is that the informant was Anna's stepmother. By this point, her father was still alive and she was technically still married to Edward. Legally, he was her next of kin and often it is the next of kin who reports the death. Yet neither her husband or father were willing to report it. Could it have been that they were too grief stricken to serve as the informant? Yes, it's possible. But combined with the fact that Anna had been living on her own in a boarding house for the last 4-5 years of her life, it is certainly indicative that neither of the men in her life wanted anything to do with her.

This was further supported by the fact that I later discovered there was never a headstone erected at her burial place in Homewood Cemetery (it was not stolen or deteriorated, it just never existed). Her family were not so destitute that they could not have afforded a small, humble headstone so it must have been that they simply didn't care enough to pay for one. It's clear that by the time she drank herself to death alone in a boarding house, she had already been dead to her family for some years and it seems mostly likely the reason for that would be her drinking.

And when I realized all this, I think I sat here for a good five minutes and just contemplated what that meant for each member of the family and how it can't be a coincidence that the child of an alcoholic mother who abandoned her children by drinking herself into an early grave would grow up to abandon his own.

I have never thought very favorably of my great grandfather for his utter failure as a father to my Pop but I do now have some sympathy for him. It doesn't excuse what he did but it does make it a bit more understandable. He wasn't just a deadbeat dad, he was also the child of a deadbeat alcoholic mother and the two are inseparable. However, I don't think I'll be crying him a river anytime soon. After all, my Pop was also the child of a deadbeat dad and he turned out to be such a devoted husband and father, he was actually in danger of smothering his family!

Every record tells a story. Though not every record tells a story with quite the impact of one like this, it will give you some insight into your ancestor's lives and sometimes perhaps even of those closer to you. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 18: Ramsey

The Ramsey family is from unknown origins but the name certainly suggests Scottish. They married into the Pike family, who I just covered yesterday.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 17: Pike

Today's family is Pike, an Irish name that was once McPike, who settled in Columbiana County, Ohio. They married into the Bauer family, who I have talked about but not posted a family history of yet.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 16: Mills, Moyer, Narum

Yes, I'm behind now so I'm going to post three today!

The Mills family, supposedly descended from Dutch royalty but likely not, never stayed in one place for very long and eventually married into the Smith family.

The Moyer family, once Meyer, is another colonial Mennonite branch which eventually fed into the Godshall family via Kratz.

Narum is another Norwegian family who are a part of the Fries branch via Larson.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Confirming Hunches

Don't you just love when you find a record that confirms a hunch you've had for a while? I had one of these moments last night when my mom messaged me to let me know that the death certificates we ordered from the Pennsylvania Department of Health back in July/August finally came in. Anyone who has ordered anything from the PA DOH knows how slow they are to fill requests but I can't really complain considering they're only $3 a piece. When I ordered an Alabama death certificate, it had cost something like $30 but it arrived within a week. So "you get what you pay for" is obviously at work here.

Death certificate for Caroline's son showing her maiden
name as something looking like "Wahr".
Offline genealogy isn't easy for me since I live in England but only have one branch that came from England. Getting records sent to England isn't cheap so I always have them sent to my mom in Pennsylvania. Last night, she sent me a message saying the records had come in and started rattling off some of the details on them. When she said "George's mother's maiden name Wake or Wahe" I got excited and asked "Wahr?!" She replied "could be!" and I knew I'd struck gold. Let me backtrack and explain why.

The Bauer branch of my tree hasn't been easy to research. My grandfather had effectively been abandoned by his father when he was a child and though they reconnected later in life, I don't think they ever got particularly close. So my grandfather didn't know a whole lot about his father's ancestry. On top of that, I've tackled obstacles like the family being missing from the 1910 census and my second great grandfather sharing the exact same name as someone else roughly of his age with two sisters who have the same names as his sisters (more on this later).

I'd found that my third great grandfather, August Bauer, had been from Germany, settled in Butler County, PA as a child and then in his 20's began moving south into Pittsburgh. In 1860, he was living unmarried in Allegheny City near the post office of Perrysville and by 1870, he was married to a woman named Caroline, had a few kids, and had moved deeper into the heart of Allegheny City, which has since been incorporated into Pittsburgh. Caroline then died before 1900, meaning I can't find her on the PA DOH Death Indices which start in 1906. So how was I going to find out more about Caroline? Ordering the death certificates of her children might tell me her maiden name but while I waited for the PA DOH to take it's time merry retrieving them, I did some browsing of census records.

I knew August was unmarried in 1860 while living near Perrysville which meant he probably didn't meet and marry his wife Caroline while still in Butler County. I knew when and where Caroline was born thanks to census records of both her and her children. The main thing I didn't know was her maiden name. What if I did some searching for any Caroline (before they were married) born in either France of Germany (she had been from Alsace-Lorraine, an area of France that bordered Germany and switched ownership several times, therefore her birth place is alternately recorded as either France or Germany) around 1842 and living in the specific areas August was probably living in during the years they must have been married? I thought it would make perfect sense if August had met Caroline and married her in Perrysville before moving further into Allegheny so I narrowed my search to post office Perrysville first. And to my great surprise and pleasure, there weren't many Caroline's that fit the bill. One by the name of "Wear" stood out (other records of the same family revealed it to be more likely spelled as Wahr) because some records said she was from France and some and Germany, just like the later records for my Caroline said. And after finding her parents in 1870, it showed she was no longer a part of the household, which meant she either died or had married and moved out. And the man she married could have been August.

It made sense but of course I couldn't confirm it. There was no way I was going to add this to my tree based on purely circumstantial links. I had a clue or a hunch but nothing more.

So when this death record of one of August and Caroline's sons came in with a maiden name that looks like "Wahr", I knew I had confirmed my hunch. While the last letter doesn't look much like an "r", according to censuses, there are no other Caroline's of the right age living in the right area(s) with a similar maiden name. So having already found the census records for Caroline Wahr before she was married, I now can confirm her parents names too and that they were born in W├╝rttemberg. I was literally doing a happy dance last night and this morning, I had email attachments of the scanned death records (thanks, Dad!) so I can now add them to my tree.

Additionally, I was thrilled to find out one of the other records that came in is the wrong record for my ancestor. Yes, that's right, I'm happy that it's the incorrect record. Why? Well, remember when I said that another individual (not in my tree) shared the exact name of my second great grandfather, Edward William Bauer, and was born roughly around the same time? Well, it appears there's been some confusion regarding them. I had a Freemason record of him saying he died in 1921 and so I also found him on the PA Death Index. But then I found him on the 1930 census! I knew it was him because he was living with one of his daughters, who was present on earlier census records that link them to my great grandfather too. So I knew it was the correct family which could only mean the 1921 death was for the other Edward William Bauer but I wanted to order the record to be sure. And that is why I was pleased to see Edward's parent's names listed as Charles and Rosina, not August and Caroline.

It does mean I now don't know when Edward died and that the Freemason record is not his. I had thought that it was because I knew his son (my great grandfather) was indeed a Freemason and so I thought it made sense that he might have been too. At the time, I had no idea there was another Edward William Bauer around the same age living in the same area! At least I've got it sorted out now and everything is more clear.

It just goes to show that sometimes you definitely need to go offline to confirm your hunches or find new information.

In light of all this, I haven't had time to do my daily Family History Writing Challenge but it will be back tomorrow.

Family History Writing Challenge Day 13: McBride

Oops, thought I posted this yesterday, I guess not.

This is another short one but there was too much to fit into another chapter. The McBride family are probably from Ireland (or Scotland) and settled in the Germantown and Chestnut Hill areas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They married into the Fallows Family.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 12: Larson

Back to Norway! Sad though, not much is known about the Larson branch. I'm not even sure where Norway they are from - supposedly Telemark but nothing more specific than that.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 11: Kratz

I've opted to skip one family, it would have been Hendricks today but there's still too much conflicting and unresolved issues that I don't want to publish yet. So instead I'm skipping to the Kratz family, yet another from the German colonial Mennonite branch!

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 10: Godshall

This is another one that's close to my heart because it's my grandfather's family and I am still close with my relatives on this side. The the same reason, a little bit of content has been removed for privacy reasons. Originally Gottschalk, the name went through many alternate spellings such as Gottshalk and Godshalk before finally settling on Godshall. They were a colonial Mennonite family before converting to Methodism sometime in the early 19th century and are descended from Jacob Godshalk, the first Mennonite bishop in America and worthy of his own Wikipedia page. He served as minister in Germantown, Philadelphia along side the more well known William Rittenhouse.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 9: Gilbert

Gilbert is another colonial family, probably originating from Germany or England and settling in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. They married into the Rorer family, who married into the Fallows family.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 8: Fulland

This one is a little pathetic and I'm wondering if it's even worth keeping - I thought there was too much to really fit into another chapter without it veering off track but not enough to stand alone. Fulland is another Norwegian farm name - this family married into the Fries/Friis family, just posted yesterday.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 7: Fries

Almost didn't finish this one! The Fries family, originally Friis, are another Norwegian branch but fortunately, this one actually had a surname that carried through the generations. Phew. One name was removed for privacy.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 6: Frantz, Knepper, and Lindesmith

I merged these three families into one chapter because they all get "daughtered out" after one generation so I didn't have enough detail to give them each a dedicated chapter. Frantz, Knepper, and Lindesmith are all believed to be Swiss or German colonial families who first settled in Pennsylvania before moving to Ohio. As with many colonial branches, there are some facts which are still up in the air.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 5: Fallows

The Fallows family is one of my favorites to research and write about, I think because there is SO much information on them. They were fairly wealthy and so there's hundreds of mentions of them in their local newspaper and dozens of surviving photographs - even a scrapbook I think my great grandmother made! Plus, my grandmother collected some more personal and character information on them, I gather from her mother-in-law before she died. This adds a personal touch to it, which can be rare in some parts of genealogy - we collect facts but how much do we really know about the character of these individuals?

Originally, the Fallows were a poor family from the Oldham/Royton area of Lancashire, England during the industrial revolution until my 3rd great grandfather, Josiah Fallows, immigrated to America in the mid-19th century to make a better life for himself. And that he did! By the time he died, he owned a large estate in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and produced a brood of seven boys (what a household that must have been to grow up in!). The Fallows married into the Godshall family.

So here's the latest update of one of my longest family histories - 3,134 words, 23 sources, 14 photographs (I mean to add more photos, there are literally dozens more): Fallows.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

The Automobile and It's Impact

The Philly History Blog recently posted an article titled When City and Car First Collided, which is something of a social history of the introduction and rise of the automobile in Philly and concerns about safety from the start. Fascinating read, especially because it reminded me of several issues in my own tree. First, it reminded me the 1943 car accident my great grandfather was in. It also reminded me that the family this same ancestor married into were car enthusiasts and lastly that his own father had owned a carriage shop which went out of business thanks to the automobile. So this branch of my tree was heavily influenced by the automobile in many different ways.

Ambler Gazette clipping
from October 28, 1943
On Tuesday, October 26, 1943, at the age of 60, my great grandfather Chester Harold Godshall Sr. was involved in a serious car accident which nearly killed him while driving from his home in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to work at the Norristown Court House (he was a civil engineer). There were no other cars involved but somehow he lost control of his car while on Wissahickon Ave (now Northwestern Ave) near where it met Germantown Ave and hit several posts by the side of the road before slamming into a stone wall which launched him from the car, through the windshield. Fortunately, the accident had caused the car horn to persistently sound, which attracted the attention of the sisters of a nearby Convent, Mount Saint Joseph's (now Sisters of Saint Joseph in Philadelphia) on Germantown Ave. The sisters called the Whitemarsh Country Club (now Whitemarsh Valley Country Club), which was located on the opposite side of Wissahickon Ave, and they sent over two men, Harold Lawton and Charles Fleisher, who rushed Chester to the Chestnut Hill Hospital. He had punctured a lung, broke several ribs, and was in critical condition at the time the Ambler Gazette reported the accident two days later. Fortunately, he recovered and lived for another ten years.

Though Chester, who was better known as Harold, was a civil engineer, back in the early 20th century, he had also worked as a secretary for his father's struggling carriage business originally called Germantown Carriage Works and eventually renamed to William H Godshall Inc. William had wanted his son to take over the business and after his death in 1922, Harold did so but not for long. It eventually went out of business in light of the rise of the automobile.
Harry Fallows and his daughter Emma Sarah proudly
showing off his automobile, circa 1908, probably rankled his
son-in-law's father, the owner of a failing carriage shop.

While William was probably muttering with bitterness over the growing popularity of the automobile, his son Harold was dating his future bride, Emma Sarah Fallows, whose family were somewhat controversially car enthusiasts. Emma's father Harry was a member of the Quaker City motoring club and won the Salem Cup in the Wildwood Auto Races on July 4, 1912 when he represented the Chase Car company. Harry's brother James owned at least three cars (though not necessarily at the same time) from as early as 1906 and had one repainted at one point. He and his cars had several mentions in the Ambler Gazette and there are also many surviving photographs the Fallows showing off their cars.

These two merging families really highlight the cultural history of the introduction of the automobile into society and what it meant for so many different people. One family struggling to hold onto their livelihood, another embracing the modern marvels that came around the turn of the century. I always imagine the early 20th century must have been an exciting time to be alive but for some, also a little frightening.

 With a little reworking, I took this content from my family histories for the Fallows and Godshall families. I will be posting their full histories within the next few days, as a part of the Family History Writing Challenge.

Family History Writing Challenge Day 4: Skaar-Eiesland and Bruskeland-Eiesland

I know this throws the alphabetical order out of line a little bit but this chapter was originally a part of another chapter (which was called Eiesland) and in light of new info and complicated Norwegian names, I've decided to give this family their own chapter. This also means I'll have more than 28 chapters to cover so I'll also be posting both today.

Anyone with Norwegian heritage knows how common patronymic names are - that is, the practice of one's surname being a combination of one's father's Christian name plus a suffix of "sen" (son) or "datter" (daughter). This presented a problem in my family history book of what to call the family as a whole! Each generation had a different surname. I decided to call the family by their farm name, since this is often attributed to their names in records, but this also presented the problem of there being more than one farm in different generations of the family. In this case, there were only two farm names for each chapter so I decided to just use both: Skaar-Eiesland and Bruskeland-Fladen. I have yet to come across more than two farms for the same family but I think if I did, instead of hyphenating three or more names, I'd just go with the most prominent name or two.

Skaar was a farm in the parish (like a township) of Konsmo, in the county now know as Vest-Agder. Eiesland was located in the parish of Lyngdal of the same county. Bruskeland was a farm in Laudal and Fladen was in Lyngdal, both also in Vest-Agder. At the time, the county was called Lister Og Mandal until 1919. The Skaar/Eiesland family married into the Bruskeland-Fladen family before moving to the Mid-West of America in the mid-19th century and marrying into the Friis/Fries family (more on them in a few days).

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 2 and 3: Cobb and Demore

I did actually complete Day 2's family history update yesterday and then, like a nincompoop, wound up forgetting to post it!

So Day 2's family history was Cobb, another colonial branch, this time from Kent, England and Virginia. The Cobb family married into the Smith family and settled in Kentucky.

And today's family history is one more recent and therefore closer to my heart. The family of my Italian paternal grandmother, Demore (which was originally D'Amore), who settled in Philadelphia. I have removed some of the information for the sake of privacy of living family members.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 1: Clemens

In preparing to do a complete update on all my written family histories during the February Writing Challenge, it occurred to me that I have exactly 28 of them to update. I have 29 in total but I recently updated one of them when I found some new information on that family. So I have just the right amount to update one a day, which should not be overwhelming. Thanks to The Family History Writing Challenge, I am finally getting this done and doing it in a way that won't be too much all at once.

I will share my family histories here on my blog in case it's of use to anyone else researching the same families or in case anyone wants ideas on how to structure a written family history (though I will be editing out info on living people for privacy reasons). My style might be dry but at the moment, my goal is just to convey the information as thoroughly as I can, not necessarily to embellish my ancestor's lives. Remember, you can take this as far as you want or do it however you want - if you want to do more or less than I have or in a completely different way, you're only doing it to please yourself. Mine is written like a book with a chapter for each family name. I work in chronological order, opening with a history of the family name (this became difficult with some of my Norwegian branches!), and typically finishing it up with either a reference to the chapter a daughter married into or with the deaths of her parents. I tend to put the first mention of my direct ancestor's names in bold, so I can follow my direct line more closely. This is because I often include a lot of information on siblings too.

I will go in alphabetical order which means my first family to update is Clemens (click to read!), a colonial Mennonite family who married into the Kratz family (who married into the Godshall family). It's fairly short since it only includes three generations and not much is known about the women going this far back. I am linking to my Google Docs because when I tried to copy and paste it into Blogger, all the formatting went haywire (despite both pieces of software being owned by the same company, apparently that does not ensure consistency). These are formatted to be compiled into an ebook, which is why the photos are just displayed at the end instead of interspersed throughout the article, like they were when I originally published my (now terribly outdated) family histories with My Canvas. Eventually, I plan to do another more creative and visual printed book. Someday.