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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Using a Double Hammer on My Brick Wall Problem: Finding Fanny

    Spring is in the air and I am looking at my brick walls with new enthusiasm. Yesterday I ignored the phone and focused on the problem of Finding Fanny.

    Fanny B. Winsor is known to be the wife of my ancestor Henry M. Winsor; but I've been unable to document her maiden name or parents. All I know about her comes from family tradition and my grandmother's notes. We have one photograph captioned on the reverse side by Arline and her handwriting reveals that my grandmother was quite elderly by the time she made the notes.

    It's hard to maintain momentum in researching brick wall problems, but my motivation was rekindled when I bumped into Sharon Sergeant at RootsTech and we had an impromptu consultation about my missing ancestor. Shelley Talalay Dardashti and Albuquerque Chris joined in with more ideas, and before long my day at the Family History Library took on a new focus. They encouraged my to go back and look at Fanny's "Fans" -- Friends, Associates, Neighbors, and to spend more time working in Kansas where Fanny lived the second half of her life than in Vermont where she was born and married. (There goes the 2012 Fall Foliage Vacation!)

    My Library day focused on Muscotah, Atchison County, Kansas where Fanny and husband Henry M. Winsor moved about 1867. I found a history of Muscotah published for the town's centennial, but no direct reference to the Winsors. I also reviewed the census records and found a few other families from Vermont -- bonus! at least one family is from the same town as the Winsors. This is a great clue.

    Sharon's encouragement and ideas truly gave my research a boost. Plus, I know that I need to find Results if I am to face my blogging buddy, Amy Coffin, at our year-end rendezvous. When I heard about Marian Pierre-Louis' webinar Ten Brick Wall Tips for Beginners for Legacy FamilyTree, I was quick to register. It's available for free viewing for a few days and well worth watching.

    Like Russ Worthington, I made Marian's tips into a homework assignment and have been working through her Ten Tips; and combined with the ideas from Sharon and Shelley, and my own Double Hammer, I am finally making progress.

    My two-sided hammer approach to Finding Fanny is bringing results -- I'm looking for her in Kansas as a documented wife and mother, and in Vermont as the "Rose of Sharon" in my Grandmother's version. I'm trying to prove or disprove Arline's story as much as I am trying to document Fanny's lineage.

    One major benefit to following Marian's suggestions is that my research notes are finally getting organized into a useful format. I am entering information into my genealogy database and finding connections I didn't realize before. I've also found new online databases with new-to-me results.

    In 2009 I went to the Vermont State Archives and walked my fingers through the Vital Records card catalogs to find every Winsor fact that might pertain to my family. I also visited the Sharon, Vermont Town Clerk's Office more than once and turned the pages of the old town record books. None of those searches turned up an essential fact that I was able to find in a split-second search at where the Vermont Vital Statistics are now online. Lesson Learned: it's ok to "redo" research!

    So far, I've learned that everything in Arline's notes checks out. Family lore? Her own research? I don't know. But, I'm Finding Fanny, bit by bit.


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    Reader Comments (2)

    Have you tried looking in the newspapers? The Kansas Historical Society has a vast collection of newspapers on microfilm that they will send out on interlibrary loan. I have had tremendous luck with finding tidbits of news and even many obituaries. Here is the url for their newspaper page:

    If she happened to belong to the Methodist church or the United Brethren (which were both two of the largest denominations in Kansas at that time), you can check around with some of the local churches to see if they have her in their membership records. The UB eventually merged with the Methodist church, so both sets of records would be found in the local United Methodist Church.

    Hope you find more on her!

    February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Ray

    Anthony, what great ideas! Thanks so much. You are certainly the go-to guy for church records. I think the Winsors were Methodists as I read that an Ike Winsor helped build the first Methodist church in their town; this would be a good link to follow up.

    The newspapers are another great angle. I haven't been able to find the local Muscotah Record, but it looks like the Kansas Historical Society has it on microfilm. Score!

    Thanks again. I will keep you posted.

    February 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterFamily Curator

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