Thursday, June 7, 2018

It has been more than a year

It has been a year since I posted an entry to this blog. What I was doing is not relevant to my genealogical search, but it did take me away from it. I am now back and hope to rekindle the readers I have. Let's get started.

Here is what excites me about #genealogy and working on my family tree.

As you might recall from earlier posts, I knew very little about my grandparents' emigration into this country in the early 1920's and some of what I thought I "knew" turned out to be completely wrong. For example, I always thought my maternal grandfather, JOHN FRANCIS BURKE, was an Irish immigrant who was married to my maternal grandmother, NINA THOMPSON BURKE, an immigrant from Scotland. 

None of that turned out to be correct.

My Grampy John was a born-and-raised U.S. citizen from New Hampshire with a New England lineage going back at least two generations. Likewise, my Nana was not from Scotland at all. I have no idea how that "knowledge" came to me, but she was born and raised in Quebec, Canada, and her lineage is Canadian going back a couple of generations, too. 

Those misunderstandings misdirected my attention as I started my climb up my own family tree. Being a novice with no formal training or education in genealogy, instead of focusing on one person at a time, I started skipping around trying to make sense of things. 

If you are just beginning to work on your own family tree, that is an inefficient way to work. You might populate your tree with erroneous information because something seems to make sense and/or you skipped or did not verify some fact.

So I reoriented my thoughts and actions and began looking at one person or family unit (husband and wife, for example) at a time. Doing so has been productive for me. I also expanded my sources; I have been a long-time subscriber to the big genealogy site,, but doing so has limited me in some ways. Recently, I reactivated a 'free' membership to Family Search, another large genealogy repository based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and has given me some data points, including documents, that I did not have from

While I was looking for birth documents from my maternal great-grandmother - finding birth certificates has been Challenge #1 for me - I discovered something I had not found on (By the way, as I mentioned above, the maternal side of my family hails from the United States, so finding information about them is much easier.) A quick trip to the Family Search data immediately pointed to a birth certificate for my Great-gramma Burke, BERTHA JULIA RAYMOND, who I knew as an 8-year old boy before father and my family left the United States for his original posting in Jordan. (I never saw her alive again until we returned for the only burial I have ever attended...hers.)

The birth certificate I found was not hers; I am still searching for that. It was for a stillborn baby boy she had on August 12, 1905, in Wilton, New Hampshire. But that is not even the 'ah hah!' moment for me - stillborn children were very common in the early 1900's in a very small town in rural New Hampshire. The eye-opener was the entry on the line marked "No. of children, 1st, 2d, 3d..."

8th. Yes, eighth.

Does that mean my great-grandmother had at least 8 children? Was it a code used by the physician? I have not answered those questions yet. Up to this point, I know of only five ancestors ... my grandfather and three of his brothers plus the one stillborn boy. Where there three more? If so, who were they? Finding definitive records on stillborn babies is challenging.

There is something else, too. The only stillborn baby relatives I have identified are males; did my great-grandmother give birth to any girls? Where did this stillborn baby boy fall in the lineage? Are there more than eight? That is possible since large families are common in my past - my maternal lineage is Roman Catholic.

I now have other questions to answer in the search for branches and leaves on my family tree. More questions mean more searching, validating, wondering, pondering ... and, of course, more than a bit of frustration. 

As I have said before, finding these exciting clues to previously unknown people is what makes my climb up my family tree so exciting and rewarding.

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