If I Had to do it ALL over

Last night we watched a show, hosted by Morgan Freedman, on time travel http://science.discovery.com/tv/through-the-wormhole/.  It got me thinking of what I would have done differently (genealogically) if I could start all over…

– Most teenagers are self-centered and most discussions with the adults in their lives are about “me”, “me and my friends” and “me”.  I was no different.   I didn’t get much better as I aged.

  • My grandfather was one of my best friends, I spent every Saturday helping him in his veterinary hospital.  He died in 1976 when I was 13.  He was a quiet, reserved type of guy.  I don’t remember him ever speaking of his family.
  • My dad died when I was 30.  We vacationed together 2 weeks a year until I was 27.  We worked near each other and frequently met for lunch.  He was a quiet, reserved type of guy. I did all the talking.  I know very little about his life before “me”
  • My nana lived to be 92.  She lived in her own apartment and walked every day, she had lots of friends.  I was 36 when she passed.  I don’t know much about her life before “me” other than a few stories that she loved to tell – meeting my grandfather, her first job and how she “dropped” a whole card catalog of hundreds of alphabetized cards down a flight of stairs while she was working at John Hancock and watched them flutter everywhere…. I never had a clue that she had started working on the Hall family genealogy.

To all you young people out there. Interview every living relative you have.  Ask lots of questions about the past. Video tape them. Have them write stories.  Collect pictures. Ask if you can look through their scrapbooks and all those boxes in the attic. Be very interested in all you can learn about them and the past.

– Next, I would NEVER have added a name, birth date or ANYTHING to my family tree unless I had a source.  An unsourced, published genealogy from the library is not a source.   I added many entries using “The Halls of New England”.  Which I found (and am still finding) to be riddled with errors…

– If I did have a source, as soon as I discovered the source I would have added a correct source citation to my database (Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills). I now have a few thousand people in my tree, about 10 of them are correctly sourced.  Perhaps 1000 have sources, but with improper source citations. I have made a pact with myself to go back and add sources, 1 person a day.  Tomorrow is day 11.  In 5 years I will be caught up.

– I would focus on family history instead of genealogy.  I would spend time, person by person learning as much as I could about them instead of just collecting birth, marriage, death and census records.

-I would become organized.  Everything would be filed in binders.  There would be no piles of “stuff” (birth certificates, book photo copies, deeds, photos, etc.) on my desk, in my bedroom and in the basement.  I found a great guide to becoming organized on Dear Myrtle entitled “FINALLY GET ORGANIZED” http://www.dearmyrtle.com/ I start this weekend.

If you are just starting out, I hope you do not repeat my mistakes!

My next thought was, if you could travel back in time, which five ancestors who you never knew would you travel back to meet?

1. Lt Brian Hall, my 7th g-grandfather of Norton, MA and Providence, RI who fought in the Revolution.  Besides that I think he must have been an amazing man, I would love to see how he lived, meet his wife Abiah and his children and ask him for the names of his parents and grandparents; once and for all “squashing” the rumor that he is George Hall’s (one of the founders of Taunton, MA)  g-grandson  I would video tape the encounter and send it to the 100’s of people on the Internet who have this wrong  in their family trees!

2. Lt. Brian Hall’s grandson Brian Hall of Norton, MA and Seekonk (now MA but back then RI) and India Point, RI, one of my g-uncles.  In 1838 he filed an intention to marry a Lucy Mason; five days later he died..  Years later his brother Horatio (my 4th g-grandfather) named his daughter Lucy Mason Hall (and named a son David Brian Pinder Hall, why not just Brian?) .  I want to hear of their lives together and the circumstances of his death at age 41.  He left a will, so he may have known that death was near.

3. Solomea (Morris) Baltrunas, my g-grandmother who arrived in New York in 1902 from Lithuania with her infant son Anthony. From NY, she traveled to settle with her husband in Pittsfield, MA (or was he there to pick her up?). They were poor immigrants.  When her husband died abt. 1917 she relocated to Athol, MA where she resided until her death in 1938.  I would like to see where she lived in Lithuania, ask how she survived after her husband died at such a young age, learn how she and her husband met and yes, I would love to ask for the names of her and her husband Josef’s siblings,  parents and grandparents.

 4. Georgianna (Hughes Clough) Hall, my g-grandmother born in 1881 in Rome, NY (a year before they started to record births).

  • Why did she use the surname Hughes until she was 18 and then change it to Clough.  Her mother married Clough when she was 8,  and filed a petition for an annulment because she found Clough to be a bigomist, 6 years later when Georgianna was 14.  Why take his name 4 years later?
  • What was her father (Hughes) first name? 
  • Was she one of the three grandchildren who watched in horror as her grandmother, Ann (Jones) Perry Evans was pushed into the Erie Canal by a team of horses and later died? 
  • Who is “Anne from Rome” a pretty young girl in a photo posing with an elderly Georgianna at her home in Malden, Massachusetts?
  • Who is the single Ann Hughes mentioned as a niece and hostess at her uncle William Perry’s 25th wedding anniversary in Rome, NY in 1909.  Georgianna was 28, already married, had a child and was using the surname Hall.
  • And I would have loved to have met Georgianna’s husband Charles “Garry” Milton Hall of whom my uncle speaks so fondly.

5. My bachelor g-uncle Walter Lansil, born in 1846,  an artist from Bangor, ME.  A world traveler best known for his marine and coastal scenes of New England and Venice, Italy. Someday I will own one of his paintings.


Okay, so you guessed it.  I would use time travel to break through my most frustrating brick walls! Please share yours!!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Diana on July 9, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    My grandparents also lived into their 90’s, and I can’t believe now that no one in the family asked them any questions regarding family history. My grandmother never met her real father, although she was raised by a wonderful man, what was the story with the first husband? My grandfather’s parents died while in their 40’s, and my great grandfather had 9 brothers and sisters, none of which my father or his brothers knew of or had met. Why not? It’s sad and it’s frustrating now trying to piece everything together. So, I agree – ask questions while you still can!



    • Welcome Diana. Thanks for the post! I agree it’s sad and frustrating. With that many siblings perhaps someone left a scrapbook or a diary! It’s just a matter of being luck enough to find it!



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