Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beginning Genealogy

I'm posting this in the hopes I can help someone who is just starting to figure out how to research their family history. While I know a person new to genealogy may not know that there are blogs to help, I believe that same person is likely to do a Google search to find out how to begin. Of course, everyone will have their own recommendations of how to start tracing your genealogy. This is the way I'd recommend.

Step 0: Maybe you won't actually do this step until you've found some information. Regardless, it's important that you do it if you intend to do genealogy as a hobby. Find a piece of software to document your family history in your own database locally on your computer. I don't recommend storing your original research online. You can read about my opinion here. Store it locally and backup your information. You can then upload it to other websites to share your information.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ancestor Appreciation Day

Sunday, September 27, 2015 is Ancestor Appreciation Day.

To go along with a post I made a while back about being proud of your ancestors, here is a poem asking another question.

Would They be Proud of You?

If you could see your Ancestors all standing in a row,
Would you be proud of them or not – or don’t you really know?
Some strange discoveries are made in climbing family trees
And some of them, you know, do not particularly please.

If you could see your ancestors all standing in a row,
There might be some of them perhaps you wouldn’t care to know.
But here’s another question which requires a different view:
If you could meet your Ancestors, would they be proud of you?

--Author Unknown

Friday, September 18, 2015

DNA Test Request

Are you related to me? Is it old news that we share an ancestor, whether that be a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent or further back? If so, this post is for you.

I am looking for cousins and aunts (since all my uncles are deceased) that would be willing to take a DNA test to help us track down our family lines. No matter if you're on my mother's or my father's side of the family, no matter if you are an aunt, first, second or third cousin, getting a DNA test done will really help!

I'm sure some of you are asking "How could a DNA test possibly help us find our family? You already had a test done and that didn't help. Why would it help if I had one done?"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Family Tree Chart for Wall Display

One really nice way to display your genealogy work is with a chart to hang on your wall. You can pay to have a professional chart created but it can be expensive. So create one yourself! The problem is creating a good looking chart. I've wanted to do this for a while but I just couldn't come up with a good looking chart. Here is a way to generate a nice looking family tree chart you will be proud to frame and hang on the wall.

First, if you don't already have it, download the free version of Legacy Family Tree software from I believe this software is good enough quality to purchase the full version but even the free version will create this chart for you.

Once the software is installed, you can import from PAF or a .ged file you can export from your current genealogy software. Once you have your tree in Legacy, add only the one image for each individual you want to appear on your chart.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What's With the Blog Name?

Some people may wonder why the name of my blog is "just" "Matt's Genealogy Blog". Why not something creative like "The Panther Family in the Jungle of the World" "Millions of Millers" or "I Dig Up Ancestors"?

First, I don't want to name it one of the family names because I'm researching ALL of the family names, including some that aren't my direct ancestors.

Second, while a creative name would be neat, much like getting a tattoo, it has to be something that has real meaning to you that you're not going to change your mind on in a year or two. While you can change your blog name, the name is how someone finds you. If you change it, its very possible you may lose some readers in the process.and notes and links you sent out earlier would eventually stop working. I wanted something more permanent.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Old Diaries

I'm confident that all genealogists would love to get their hands on old diaries and journals of their ancestors'. My mother loaned me the diaries of my grandmother, Elizabeth Menke Panther from 1975, 1976 and 1980. I just looked through the one from 1975 and discovered several entries that help fill in a few blanks in my genealogy database.

Her brother, Joseph Menke died at 1:30pm on February 23, 1975

Friday, July 24, 2015

Time Marches On, Progress, or Losing Our History?

June through the beginning of July was a sad period for me. Two buildings that I knew while growing up came to the ground within weeks of each other. First was the old Panther farm house on Highway 218 near the old Highway 103, now known as the J40. I knew the home had fallen into disrepair and that it had recently sold. During our recent trip to southeast Iowa, I had heard they were planning on tearing it down. I tracked down the phone number of the new owner and gave him a call. It ends up that the crane was due to arrive and begin demolition in about two hours!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Most Recent Genealogical Brick Walls

Here are my most likely connections to unknown DNA matches. Any matches to my other branches are probably already known since those family trees are documented quite a ways back.

Charles E. Miller aka Karl E. Müller, born 7 Oct 1852, somewhere in Germany. Came through New York around 1874. Spent some time in New York City before moving to Linn County, then Chariton County, Missouri. Married Philomena Bixenman in 1891 in Wien, Chariton County, Missouri. Moved to Fort Madison, Lee County, Iowa and spent the rest of his life there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Where to Store Your Family Tree

While working with some people on their family tree, I've discovered that many of them keep their primary copy of their family tree on an online system. By this I mean that their original copy of their genealogical information is on a site like or I recommend against this.

While I trust Family Search to not go out of business and I know Ancestry performs backups of their data, I still would never put my trust into any one company outside of my control. I very much prefer to be in charge of my own data directly, then share it using any number of online services.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Daily Lives of Our Ancestors

My mother was given some things that were in her mother's home when she died. None of it is particularly valuable but the insight it provides into the daily life of my grandmother and great-grandmother is amazing.

My grandmother kept a daily diary for years and my mother was given three of them. She loaned them to me so I could scan them in digitally to be shared with my cousins. I hope to obtain some of the others and do the same with those. If you are an aunt or cousin of mine that has one or more of Elizabeth Menke Panther's diaries, please let me know! I'd like to scan them in and I'd get them back to you as soon as possible.

These diaries don't contain any deep dark family secret, at least that I've found so far! They do, however, show the daily thoughts and activities of my grandmother from 1975, 1976 and 1980.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sad Day in the History of the Panther Family

The old farm of the Benedict and Elizabeth Menke Panther family is gone. The home was built in 1900. It was previously the home of the Frank Panther family. After Ben and Elizabeth retired, it was passed on to their oldest son, Urban and his wife Bertha. After they retired, it was passed on to their son John, who passed away in 2006. It was recently purchased by Jeff Snaadt and he is clearing the way for a new home to be built. While many members of the extended family thought we could pitch in the money and save the place, everyone who eventually saw it knew that the house was too far gone. Those that lived there previously agreed that they'd rather have it torn down than have it slowly collapse and decay.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

1905 Iowa State Census

I looked for all of my ancestors that could be found in the 1905 Iowa State Census. Some of the information is exactly as I expected it. Some of it confirmed what I believed and some of it sheds light on their lives and some raises more questions.

August Menke is interesting. I knew he came to America when he was about seven years old. What surprises me is that is shows that he had spent 30 years in Iowa but 33 years in America. Where did his family live when he first arrived in America? This is the first time I've seen a hint that he may have lived somewhere else in America before Iowa.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Are You Proud of Your Ancestors?

Are you proud of your ancestors? I think most people are proud of the majority of their ancestors. At worst, we just don't know enough about them but if they had the courage to pick up and move to America, I think we'd be proud of them. But what if they were outlaws? Thieves? Slave owners?

I believe we have every right to be proud of things our ancestors accomplished. Of course, you can't take credit for what they accomplished but you can be proud of them. In the same vein, you can't take the blame for the things they did wrong. Recently, movie star Ben Affleck was the subject of the PBS show "Finding Your Roots". As part of their research, it was found that one of Mr. Affleck's ancestors owned slaves. While it's not something to be proud of, it's not something that he could do anything about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Family History Centers

One of the most overlooked research tools, especially for beginning genealogists, is the local Family History Centers. These are the places you can do original research of the LDS church's millions of microfilm rolls that they have filmed of all the various church, local, state and national records. They store these microfilms at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and in the granite vault in the mountains nearby. What many people don't realize is that all these microfilms are available for anyone to search at hundreds or even thousands of locations around the world.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Closing in on Dorans in Ireland

I decided to look at Family Search's immigration records for the Dorans again. It does appear the ship's passenger list I posted here: are the correct ship's list. The list's index cards for these passengers are shown here: