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Organizing Your Resources | Our Prairie Nest
Organizing Your Resources

In genealogical research, you will inevitably end up with a lot of links. I must admit I’m a bit of a link hoarder. With anything else in life, I like to keep it simple. Put everything in its place and if I have no use for it, out it goes.

Links are too easy to collect, though, especially genealogy links. Heck, I even save links for sites I don’t actually need, but could need in the future.

Fortunately, I went in and cleaned my favorites recently. Good thing, too, because plenty of those links were broken. It just goes to show that when you find a link that is potentially useful, you need to try to mine it for nuggets as quickly as possible.

I like to organize links for ease of finding what I want, so my favorites are broken down in a folder called “Genealogy” into subfolders:

Conferences

Societies

Canada

Connecticut

DNA

England

France

General

Ireland

Italy

Loyalists

Maine

Massachusetts

New Brunswick

North Carolina

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

Quebec

Scotland

Virginia

Washington

Before I cleaned out links, I had more folders – folders I ultimately realized I never used. So this is a very basic way of organizing links. I can find what I need quite easily. If I am working on my Mayflower ancestors, I know the Massachusetts folder will be my first stop to see what links I have available.

There are probably plenty of folks who don’t see the need to have these various subfolders for organizing links/favorites. If I didn’t do this, the Genealogy folder would be one, long, disorganized list of links that I would have to scroll up and down through.

Manuscript Collections | Our Prairie Nest
Manuscript Collections

One of my ex-husband’s family mysteries is right there on his paternal side – who are the ancestors of John Goodwin Hawksley?

Thanks to my visit to NEHGS several years ago, and not enough hours spent looking through the Isaac Adams manuscript file (there are never enough hours – it is like being a kid in a candy store!), I found this wonderful document:

This is a document written by John Goodwin Hawksley’s niece, Mary Elizabeth (Adams) Foster.  She was the daughter of John’s sister, Margaret Elizabeth Hawksley, who married Isaac Adams (son of Isaac Adams and Rhoda Babcock).

The Adams family ended up in New Brunswick due to their Loyalist convictions, as did the Goodwin family – the ancestors on John’s maternal side.

John’s mother was Mary Goodwin.  Her father was a Loyalist from New Jersey.  We don’t know her parents’ first names; only that her father was, of course, a Goodwin and her mother was a Workman.  We also know the names of Mary’s siblings, thanks to this letter.

The letter mostly gives clues, but not much concrete information.  I began piecing the Goodwin family together in hopes that working sideways would yield more information.  Fortunately, I “met” a Goodwin descendant online, and she and I have worked together to create a fuller family tree.

However, the Hawksley question remains. This letter says simply that Mary Goodwin married “an Englishman”.

I have guesses and ideas based on the area (Fredericton and St. John, New Brunswick) of why this Hawksley man might have been there. I think he was a British soldier, but I have no definite information. However, I also don’t think they were actually married, which is another hypothesis entirely.

I know that Mary Goodwin, after having her 4 children, was married to William Madigan on 14 October 1824, placing Mr. Hawksley’s date of death between 1816 (when the youngest child, Margaret was born) and 1824, or his return to England (or Ireland, in my hypothesis) in that time frame.

Thus far, death records have not given us the name of Mr. Hawksley (or the mother either – finding her was a lucky break based on my research at NEHGS and then connecting that to the 1860 census, in which Mary Madigan lives with her daughter, Margaret (Hawksley) Adams).

What’s next?

Certainly, there are plenty of possibilities open, and most of them point to actually visiting Fredericton, where the 4 Hawksley children were born, In addition to on-site research, I think obtaining the service file for the hypothesized father might also help. The person who is currently the basis for my hypothesis was stationed in Fredericton during the time frame that Mary had her children. No Hawksley male, prior to John Goodwin Hawksley, left any records – no birth, baptism, marriage, or death, no court or land or newspaper records – nothing. It’s not often that a male lives without leaving some kind of mark. So who was this elusive Mr. Hawksley?

Someday, I hope to know. For now, it’s this one document found in a manuscript collection that answered at least one important question. Never underestimate the importance of these collections in museums and historical societies!

Civil War Pension Files | Our Prairie Nest
Civil War Pension Files

You’ve probably heard of Civil War (and other military) Pension Files, but maybe you haven’t ordered one yet. They’re costly, perhaps out of reach for some people, which can make obtaining them difficult. However, if you are able to order one, they can be valuable sources of information. Here’s an example:

Samuel Hawksley was born about 1847 in Richmond, Carleton County, New Brunswick.  He died 6 February 1865 at Hatcher’s Run in Virginia. Samuel never married or had children.

His parents, John Goodwin Hawksley and Lucy Lilley, filed for a pension for his Civil War service on 27 March 1877. Because Samuel was unmarried and without children, any documentation in the file should center around him – perhaps I would find his actual date of birth – and his parents.

At least, that’s what I surmised. John and Lucy would have to submit documentation proving they were his parents. Perhaps it would give me more clues regarding John’s background, since he was a brick wall. Perhaps not. As you know, you can leave no stone unturned when dealing with a brick wall. Because Samuel’s parents would have been the ones submitting information and documentation to obtain his pension, these are firsthand documents created by or for them.

The pension file was incredibly useful, because while it didn’t give me the names of John Goodwin Hawksley’s parents, it did verify the marriage date for him and his wife, Lucy Thomas Lilley, as well as the birth dates of their children. In a few instances, we only had approximations. It also verified the death of Lucy T. Hawksley and the marriage of their first daughter.

At the time when I received the file several years ago, nobody seemed to know who Isabel Hawksley, the eldest daughter and child of John and Lucy, had married. The file told me that her husband’s name was Charles Staples Boothby of Saco, Maine. They went to Newton, Massachusetts, which was good news for me, as I found the records of births and marriage on their children, as well as Isabel (Hawksley) Boothby’s death, via NEHGS.

Meanwhile, I learned other interesting information about John Goodwin Hawksley himself that gave me a better understanding of the family history.

He is my ex-husband’s 3rd great-grandfather. In September of 1861, a tree fell on his leg, breaking the leg below the knee and making him lame. He had to use a cane for the rest of his life, and was unable to work the family lands. They were too poor to get a doctor to set the leg, so it healed, but not well.

He relied on his unmarried teenaged son, Samuel, to do the work. Then Samuel enlisted with the Army in 1864, hoping to be able to send money to his family. But he was lost after going missing in action during the battle at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia.

When the family had not heard from him for 12 years, they filed for the pension in 1877 as dependent parents. Lucy died in 1880, so John then requested the pension be transferred to him, and it was paid until his death in 1893.

My ex-husband’s great-great grandpa, William Roger Hawksley, was “legally bound” to support his father from 1880 to March 1881, and the affidavits say that John and Lucy Hawksley survived thanks to their children’s generosity, and Samuel’s work on their home and lands, before he went to war at the age of 17.

So it was interesting stuff.  While it didn’t give me anything further on Hawksley ancestors, it told more of the story of John Goodwin Hawksley’s and his family’s lives.

Genealogy and Lineage Societies | Our Prairie Nest
Genealogy & Lineage Societies

If you have yet to explore what genealogy groups and societies have to offer, here’s a little guide to the various types out there.

First, there are societies devoted to research itself. You can find many devoted to specific geographic areas. My personal favorite is the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the focus of which is obvious thanks to their name. NEHGS is more of a repository and publisher than a social group. They keep a huge variety of records at their library in Boston, as well as offer scans and transcriptions of those records through their website. They also offer a variety of publications – a magazine, journal, and newsletters. Membership in NEHGS is well worth the price for me, as it costs less than a subscription to a wider-reaching site, such as Ancestry.com, but offers far more value for my specific interests.

So if you’re looking for this kind of society in the area specific to your family history/research interests, try Google to locate one.

Facebook is a great place to find much smaller, online groups with a specific research focus. For example, try searching “Italian Genealogy” and you will find a wide variety of groups. It’s easy to join such groups. In the case of closed groups, it’s just a matter of waiting for the moderator to approve your request for membership.

You can also find groups dedicated to general research, organizing your research, digitizing your records, and much more.

Most of us are probably very familiar with lineage societies, which concentrate on a particular surname or group of people. Examples of this include the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and the various groups dedicated to researching the pilgrims who came over on that ship, such as the Alden Kindred of America. These are excellent groups to join if you want to focus your research on a specific ancestor or surname.

General and social genealogy groups and forums exist all over the internet. A simple Google search will give you several results. Try using search terms for specific traits you would like to find in a group, such as genealogy writers or genealogists who are also cat lovers (alright – I don’t know if the second one exists, but it might!). These are just a few examples. 

What do you look for in a genealogy group? What’s a genealogical niche you wish was more fulfilled by groups or societies?