All posts by Penny Stratton

About Penny Stratton

A veteran of the book publishing industry, Penny Stratton retired as NEHGS Publishing Director in June 2016; she continues to consult with the Society on publications projects. Among the more than 65 titles she managed at NEHGS are The Great Migration Directory, Elements of Genealogical Analysis, Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, and the award-winning Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts. She has written for American Ancestors magazine and is a regular poster on Vita Brevis. With Henry B. Hoff, Penny is coauthor of Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History; she is also the author of several Portable Genealogists on writing and publishing topics.

The Name Game

The first Emma, Emma (Byrt) Powell.
The first Emma, Emma (Byrt) Powell.

When my daughter was born, we chose the name Emma for her. Like many first-time parents, we considered and discarded many names. But we kept circling back to Emma because it’s a family name, and it follows an interesting pattern:

Emma Powell, born 1836 in Bristol, England

Ella Byrt, born 1860 in Chicopee, Massachusetts

Emma Ladd, born 1886 in New York

Ella Clark, born 1915 in Richmond Hill, New York Continue reading The Name Game

A genealogical photo calendar

Juho calendarThis week I gave a webinar on different ways of sharing family history findings with your family. (It was originally broadcast 18 November 2014.) While preparing for it, I became fascinated by the idea of creating a genealogical photo calendar.

I was inspired by a genealogical wall calendar created by an NEHGS member. Each month’s photo is of an ancestor. The blocks for specific days are annotated with genealogical data: specifically, birth and marriage dates of ancestors as well as of living relatives. Continue reading A genealogical photo calendar

“Dam humbug”!

Frank Stratton
Frank Stratton

Among my husband’s family papers is a letter, dated 25 October 1873, from John Dill to his mother, Susan (Berry) (Dill) Gibbons. John had left the family home in Springfield, Illinois, earlier that year to work on the railroad in Texas, and he was alarmed about the impending marriage of his younger sister, Ida Dill:

This thing of Ida getting acquainted Courting and marrying all in about a month I do not believe in and more than it is a dam humbug. . . . How do you know what that fellow is or has bin you cant find out so much in such a little time. Continue reading “Dam humbug”!

Genealogical complexity: writing it up

Penny at podium_croppedYesterday, Scott wrote about genealogical complexity: addressing all the different ways we make modern families and write about them genealogically. As it turns out, many family historians ask questions about just such things:

  • How do I talk about a child born out of wedlock?
  • Do I list my sister’s stepchildren?

As Scott said, we think you should report it all – without judgment. Well, what does that look like? The first place a child appears in a Register­-style sketch is in a child list, and it’s the child-intro line where you give the salient information. Here are some examples: Continue reading Genealogical complexity: writing it up

A revolution in one generation

Penny at podium_croppedI began my publishing career in pre-computer days: manuscript was typed on a typewriter, and editing was done on hard copy. I took a freelance job from a publisher who required that I work in ink, and for that job I acquired a special fountain pen that I filled with green ink.

To change or remove an edit, I used ink eradicator, which came in a little brown bottle with a stopper that doubled as an applicator. The ink rule ensured that every edit was very deliberate; still, I probably used up that entire bottle of eradicator. Continue reading A revolution in one generation

Revelations from my recliner: Part Two

Little George Rohrbach
My father George Rohrbach

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a breakthrough in determining the parentage of my great-grandmother, Orella (Turnbull) Turnbull. While stuck in my recliner for several days with my foot elevated, I made another discovery, about Orella’s husband George.

For years I’ve been sporadically working at tracking down the Turnbulls. They are the only English family in my largely Finnish and Swiss ancestry, and it seems they should be much easier to trace. Continue reading Revelations from my recliner: Part Two

Revelations from my recliner: Part One

Turnbull family
From left to right: Orella (Turnbull) Turnbull, her daughter Sylvia (Turnbull) Rohrbach, and Sylvia’s daughter Helen (Rohrbach) Johnson holding her daughter Norma Johnson.

I recently spent a week at home, recovering from foot surgery. With time off from work, I turned to genealogical work of another kind: my own family history. I began crafting an ahnentafel for my father, George Rohrbach. When I got to number 7, I got stuck . . . again.

Number 7 is my great-grandmother, Orella Turnbull, born in Bellaire, Belmont County, Ohio — across the river from Wheeling, West Virginia — in 1856. She married George Turnbull, born in England in 1857. Their first child, Sylvia May Turnbull, was my grandmother. Continue reading Revelations from my recliner: Part One

Still more thoughts on preparing to publish

Penny at podium_croppedBy phone, at seminars, and now at webinars, we field many questions from people who are interested in writing family histories. Here are a few of the most frequent questions we hear:

How do I get started? There’s no way around it: getting started can be difficult. You will have to shift mental gears. Take a step back, as if you’re zooming out with a camera, and begin thinking about your project as a potential manuscript, something different from your mass of research. Don’t wait until your research is done, or you’ll never get started. Just begin! Continue reading Still more thoughts on preparing to publish

Further thoughts on preparing your genealogical project for publication

Penny at podium_croppedIn a recent blog post on preparing a project for publication, Scott Steward targeted that essential shift in thinking that must occur as you translate your research project into a writing project. And he pointed out how important it is to write a table of contents . . . and a title.

After talking at length with attendees at our Writing and Publishing Seminar about their projects, I realized that TOCs and titles figured large in those conversations. So here are three more thoughts on the topic: Continue reading Further thoughts on preparing your genealogical project for publication