Dandelion Fluff

I like to visualize genealogy sources as dandelions. Just as a single dandelion contains as many as 172 seeds, one source can contain many pieces of information. Each fluffy information parachute represents the seed of a new source to be investigated and new discoveries to be made.

Consider the Pictorial Atlas of Sioux County, Iowa (Minneapolis: Title Atlas Co., 1985). One section of this wonderful atlas is devoted to biographical information. Here is what I found for the Veen family:

Veen biographical profile, Pictorial Atlas Sioux County

I can pull out all the bits of information from this one source;each item is a seed for further investigation:

  1. Herbert W. Veen. 
  2. O. From the legend at the front of the atlas, I know this stands for “owner” of property
  3. FN 9-32-2. Farm number: Township no. 9 (Grant), Section no. 32, farm building no. 2 (as shown on the plat map for Grant Township)
  4. PH 324-2909. Phone number
  5. WF. Wife: Lois M.
  6. Lois’s parents: father Ray Rosenboom, mother Cora Verrips
  7. husb. Husband’s parents: father Cornelius, mother Johanna Rensink
  8. CH. Children: Norman, married Alice Hoyt; [sibling omitted for privacy]
  9. MI. Miscellaneous information
  10. Reformed church
  11. WWII. World War II Navy
  12. Both [Herbert & Lois] lived in Sioux County their lifetimes
  13. Farm in Veen family since 1909
  14. General farming, grain
  15. Address Rte. 1., Box 226-A, Sheldon

Fifteen parachute seeds of information! First I must ask myself how accurate (reliable) is this source? I don’t know who provided the information, but it seems reasonable it was Herbert “Herb” Veen or his wife Lois. So I can tentatively assume the informant is reliable. Could mistakes be made? Of course; Herb’s or Lois’s memory could be faulty on some points, or the compiler could make a mistake copying the information. No matter how solid it seems, all fifteen pieces of information need corroboration from independent sources.

But what a windfall!

So what’s the next step? I need to construct a research plan, not only to corroborate this information but to build on it. Let’s put together some questions suggested by the information.

  1. Herbert W. Veen: What does the “W” stand for? When and where was he born?
  2. Herb was the owner of a farm in Grant Township. I can find it on the atlas plat map. The plat indicates he owned 115 acres. I also see names of his neighbors: surnames Westra, Houtsma, Goslinga, Zylstra. Good Dutch names (I think). Might any be relatives?
  3. This farm had been in the Veen family since 1909. If that’s true, it seems likely Herb’s father or another relative purchased it, since that was seventy-six years prior to 1985. I wonder who they purchased it from? How much did they pay? How did they pay for it? When/how did Herb acquire it?
  4. Herb was a “general farmer”, a “grain” farmer. This means his operation was diversified, with the bulk of the farm dedicated to grain. What records might provide more insights into his farm business?
  5. Herb’s wife was Lois M. Rosenboom. What does the “M” stand for? When and where was she born?
  6. Lois’s parents were Ray Rosenboom and Cora Verrips. Are those Dutch names? Hmmm…. I wonder when and where they were married. If they are Dutch, were they immigrants? Did they live in Sioux County?
  7. Herb’s parents were Cornelius Veen and Johanna Rensink. Same set of questions. When and where did they marry? Were they immigrants? Did they live in Sioux County?
  8. Children. I already have Norm’s birth record, and obviously our marriage record. I’d like to know that information for his sibling.
  9. The miscellaneous information is quite a boon:
      1. Church affiliation: The Reformed church. That’s vague; if you’ve ever been to northwest Iowa, Reformed churches are everywhere!!! It’s a traditionally Dutch denomination. Where did they attend? Which location would have been closest?
      2. World War II veteran of the Navy. Enlisted? Drafted? What years? Atlantic or Pacific? What was his rank? What was his job? Was he in any battles?
      3. Herb and Lois were lifetime residents of Sioux County. What records should I look for to verify that?

I could keep going, but you get the idea. Feeling overwhelmed? It’s time to deconstruct this list and set some priorities. Next post!


A Gem from the Big Blue Bin

Pictorial Atlas Sioux County, Iowa

It’s a new year, and I’ve been delving into the depths of the big blue bin, pulling out a new batch of Veen family mementos. The best find this time around has been the Pictorial Atlas Sioux County, Iowa, published in 1985 by the Title Atlas Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This company is apparently out of business, making the Sioux County Atlas a real gem to be preserved.

We often think of atlases as comprised solely of maps and plats, but when you find an atlas devoted to a local area such as a county, the additional material can be priceless. Here is a list of the contents in the Pictorial Atlas of Sioux County:

  • “Important Facts about Land Descriptions.” Iowa lands were platted and distributed using the federal rectangular survey system; understanding the layout of townships, ranges, and sections is key to identifying specific tracts.
  • Maps. This is what you’d expect in an atlas: outline maps of the U.S., Iowa counties, and a road map of Sioux County. There’s also an outline map of Sioux County with a key to pages for each township.
  • Township plat maps. Each platted township identifies land owners and acreage.
  • Advertisements; many include company photographs. What a great way to gain insights into local businesses!
  • Directory (index). If you’ve used plat books before, this is standard: an index keyed to every individual shown on the plat maps.
  • Township directory. Here’s where our atlas digs in, providing detailed information about families and individuals, organized by township.
  • History of Sioux County, including histories of towns and villages, church histories, abandoned towns, and post offices.
  • Photographs of county officials and churches.
  • Family-submitted historical and contemporary photographs.
  • Family histories and even a few business histories.

Amazing and wonderful! We usually included historical atlases and directories as part of our research, but often overlook more recently-published gems. Check your public library, WorldCat and the Library of Congress to see what might be available for your area.

Our next post will look at how this single source can serve as a springboard to a new research plan.

All Good Wishes

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home! — Charles Dickens

We wish our clients, colleagues and friends the blessings of peace, goodwill, faith and family this Christmas season and in the year ahead.

Precious Memories

After a busy autumn, I finally returned to my Veen family project. Scanning and digital organization of my husband’s photographs and papers is well in hand, so it’s time to organize and preserve his irreplaceable documents, photographs, and mementos. Because I want him to enjoy these precious memories, I’ve opted for archival-safe photo albums/scrapbooks for the bulk of his collection.

Removing newspaper clippings and photographs from old, self-adhesive pages is a challenge, and not all his newspaper clippings survived. But most were safely removed, and the few casualties have been scanned, so I’m ready to create a nice keepsake album. Items too bulky for an album are wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and stored in a cabinet drawer in his home office. My hope is that having the album and mementos close at hand will jog his memory and we can begin recording the stories of his life to share with our children. Continue reading

Just Around the Corner…

October, Family History Month, is just around the corner – bringing boundless opportunities for family history education and fun at upcoming regional conferences!

The Minnesota Genealogical Society’s Tenth Annual North Star Conference, “Family History Crossroads,” will be held 6 – 7 October 2017 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; featured speakers: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA and Cyndi Ingle, creator of Cyndi’s List.

The two-day conference includes twenty breakout presentations by leading speakers from five states, plus a pre-conference DNA workshop on 5 October. Continue reading

Categories & Labels

With 300 images on my computer, it might seem a difficult task to provide each with a unique identifying label. Organizing images into logical categories is a good first step. Within my “VEEN” file, I create a file for my husband’s generation. My husband’s personal file is labeled 2_Norman J Veen, because he is the second child of the family. I’ve stored my 300 images in his personal file. Continue reading

Cropping & Corrections

Here’s an easy bit of project work. I need to go through all images and crop, straighten, rotate, correct color and contrast, etc. This is a good “multi-tasking item—it doesn’t require brain power, so I can work my way through 300 images with my feet up and the TV on!

Photo editing

Most corrections are accomplished with basic software—I like Microsoft Picture Manager, but there are plenty of choices. For more sophisticated photo work, Photoshop Elements works well. Between the two programs, just about any image can be properly adjusted and formatted.

Now those 300 images are ready to be tagged and documented.

Scanning and Saving

Boyden-Hull mementos

The next phase of my adventure with the Big Blue Bin doesn’t involve the Bin at all—for now I’m focused on dealing with the smaller bin that holds items from my husband’s life before our marriage. Again, I deconstruct this aspect of the project into smaller bites.

I like to deconstruct to the point that I can begin and finish a baby-step goal in a single session. Think of time in terms of blocks you can devote to your project. If you only have an hour to spare, what can you achieve with an hour’s work? Try to deconstruct to that point. Do you have an afternoon free? Or an entire day? What can you reasonably accomplish with that amount of time? Construct your baby-step plan accordingly. Continue reading

Setting Goals, Baby Steps

Unpacking the Big Blue Bin

Anytime we begin a new project, it’s necessary to articulate goals. Success is difficult to achieve if it’s undefined! The overarching goal of my new project is to reconstruct the family history of my husband’s Veen ancestors. This includes identifying and establishing relationships between the four surnames of his grandparents: Veen, Rensink, Rosenboom and Verrips. These are Dutch and German surnames. Although I have some Dutch ancestry, this type of research will be new to me.

Have you heard the word “deconstruction” before? I had not, until I began reading books on project management. “Deconstruction” in project management terms simply means to take a large, seemingly overwhelming task and break it down into manageable bites. Think of it as taking “baby steps” as you begin your family history project. Continue reading

The Big Blue Bin

Big Blue Bin

Last Christmas I promised my husband I’d organize, research and write his family history. OK, so maybe my motives were mixed: I’ve been shuffling around this big blue plastic storage bin of “Veen stuff” for several years. Every time I came across something “Veen” I added it to the bin, then as the bin filled, began piling items on top. I needed to get it out of the upstairs hallway, so this seemed like a good idea in addition to a nice gift. Continue reading