Saturday, October 12, 2013

Union County New Jersey Land Records

A few years ago I came to the realization that online research, however wonderful in its accessibility and scope, did and does have its limitations.  In slow and sometimes small steps I began to make trips to historical societies and most recently, Monmouth County Archives.  I also looked for local genealogical societies.  Recently I joined the Genealogical Society of the West Fields in New Jersey.  They have great speakers! At a meeting the other day, the guest speaker was Joanne Rajoppi, Union County Clerk.  She talked about Land Records maintained by her office,  Many records are searchable online from 1985 to the present and records prior to January 1986 are in the process of being imaged.

It was a great talk and very enlightening.  Ms. Rajoppi is approachable and seems to be researcher friendly.  She explained about Deeds, Mortgages, Assignments and liens as well as showing samples of some of the documents.  The most interesting one was the Chattel Mortgage.   Chattel Mortgages listed the collateral given and examples included personal property such as a steam boiler and furniture. I saw a listing for table and chairs on one of the mortgages.

I got a new perspective on research in Union County.  There aren’t any records in the inventory of the Records Room prior to 1857 because that was when Union County was created from Essex County.  Earlier records are Essex County records.  I had not known that.  If I read it before, it did not click until now.

One of the very recent lessons for the NGS course dealt with courthouse records and marriage records.  I had a bit of a challenge when looking for a local repository because Union County does not keep marriage records; the local municipalities do.  Earlier records are at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton.  I wasn’t clear on what records were at the Union County Clerk, but after today I have a much better handle on it. 

At the time, figuring out where the records were was pretty confusing.  I guess that’s the point of taking a class.  You learn things like that. It took a little while to sort it out, at least for New Jersey, and now, land records in Union County.

I look forward to the next speaker!

I Love This Pencil

Twist-Erase 0.9 by Pentel
I haven't used a pencil this much since I was in school. Almost every place I have been thus far for research has a no pen, pencils only rule.  When writing on source documents I also write in pencil.  After working for a while, my hand gets cramped.  But the Twist-Erase pencil is easy to use and very comfortable.  I originally bought the 0.7 but found it too easy to break the lead when pressing down.  The 0.9 is stronger but still gives a fine enough line.  I keep one with me in my bag, one (or two) on my desk and one in my briefcase.  It is definitely a favorite find.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Next Step - NGS Home Study Course

While I was taking the Boston University course, I learned about the National Genealogical Society's Home Study Course.  There are 16 lessons on three cd's and each student progresses at their own pace.  The course really seems like it will give a good foundation for researching American records.   I ordered all three cd's at once and am taking the graded version.  Completion of the graded version earns a certificate from NGS.  That's my new goal, to earn that certificate.

I took the online version of BU's certificate program.  The plus side is that you can do it from home.  In theory you can work when you want at your own pace, but the course is broken into modules and those modules have to be completed within a certain time to earn a certificate.  There are is a forum to interact and exchange ideas with other students in the class.  The down side is that I think you make fewer connections in a strictly online program that lasts only a few months.  There is a mailing list for the NGS program as well.  Since the course can take years rather than months, there may be more opportunities for connections.  I signed up with another student from BU.  We encourage each other, set a target date for the next lesson and can discuss the process with someone in the same position.  Working with someone else adds a little bit of structure to keep on track.  Otherwise it is easy to keep postponing something which is difficult, intimidating or out of your comfort zone.  We are each a little competitive too which is great incentive.

Having taken the BU certificate course, I thought the NGS course might be easy,  but this is challenging too.  Learning about records, planning and following through on trips to repositories, and skill building how to present what I've learned, all the while being able to use my own ancestors for many assignments allows me to learn and add to my family tree at the same time.

Having meandered through research just for the fun of it for years, I am mindful of eliminating old habits which would immediately identify me as an amateur.  There is some real mental discipline involved in doing solid research.  That's a work in progress since I still can get distracted by something especially interesting.

My goal is to become a professional and to do really good work that I can be proud of.  I think what I learned from BU and now what I will learn from NGS will give me a solid foundation.  There are so many more things I want to learn and to do, but there doesn't seem to be enough time to get to them all!
I take the research very seriously, but I don't taken myself too seriously.  If I make a mistake I can laugh, AFTER I correct it!

Who knew that all those courthouses, libraries, archives, etc had a name?  Now I know, they are repositories and I am tickled that I know that name.  I love what I am learning, and I love all of the wonderful sites, blogs, books, places and people I am meeting as I learn.

When I look back, my first repository visit was to a County Historical Society.  I thought I came prepared, but I had no plan, I didn't write down everything about the sources I consulted, and even though the employees were very helpful, I would have to make a return trip to be confident in using my notes.  Today, I would:
  • Understand the place I am going, how to use it and what the rules are
  • Formulate a specific question to research
  • Have a plan and be familiar with the catalog
  • Bring my background research with me
  • Take good notes, particulary regarding the sources
  • Identify any photocopies completely and accurately on the copy
  • Read and follow directions
and that is just for starters!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Earned My Certificate

In June of 2013 I became the proud owner of a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University's Center for Professional Education.  I had no clue what I was getting into when I signed up for the course!  It was challenging, demanding and occasionally frustrating, but exhilarating and WOW, did it ever teach me a lot.

My style of genealogy research had always been to meander and follow wherever documents led me.  I am good at following trails and have been pretty inventive in my searches, but it was always going to be amateur.  Learning better methods was my original intent, and some where along the way, I started to think about applying for certification as a professional genealogist.  I'm definitely not there yet.  It's my dream to consistently improve my work, and to maintain high standards along the way.