I’m having a great time writing this blog and I’m learning a lot by delving into the stories of my ancestors. But what happens when you’re not sure who to write about next? My science and math brain leads me to something systematic. Organizing your genealogy research is essential to staying sane while you find your people.
Last year I started following a blog called Dutch Genealogy by Yvette Hoitink, CG (Certified Genealogist). She talks about researching Dutch ancestors, but she also introduces her level-up challenge. You can read her original blog post here and her updated post here. In this challenge, she created six information levels of completed research for each ancestor. The levels range from 0 (unidentified ancestor) to 6 (writing a biography or family narrative about an ancestor). In between, you find out names, vital information, spouse and children, and things like military service and whether they owned land.
I love using Airtable for keeping track of my research and so do Diana Elder and Nicole Dyer, the mother/daughter genealogy duo at Family Locket. They have kindly taken all the work out of setting up your own base and added a template to the Airtable Universe. This is a place where people add templates they’ve made in Airtable to help others. Here’s a look at the levels and the records needed to complete that level:
So to kick this off, I’m going to concentrate on a Stabley ancestor, my great-grandfather Eli Bernard Stabley. I already know a lot about him so my Airtable entry looks like this:
Eli was born the eldest son of Frederick W. Stabley and Emma Caroline Welty on 23 May 1874 in York County, Pennsylvania. As a young man, he worked in a cigar factory, a major business in York County in the late 19th century.
By 1899 Eli had a new profession, soldier. He enlisted in the Army just as the Spanish-American War ended and the war with the Philippines began. Eli never saw any combat duty and spent his time at Fort Yellowstone Wyoming. According to the National Parks Service, soldiers were initially stationed at Fort Yellowstone to stop poachers and hunters from destroying the wildlife inside Yellowstone National Park, which opened in 1872.1
After several years, it became clear their presence was more permanent than originally thought and the Army stayed until 1918. Eli was a kitchen orderly who had an unfortunate accident that left him blind in one eye. He remained in Wyoming until his 3-year term was over in 1902 then went back to Pennsylvania. But he didn’t go back to making cigars…
In March 1903 Eli married Ida Jane Dettinger in York, but by December of the same year, he had sold the barber shop even though he continued in the profession for several more years. Here is a very old picture of Eli and Ida on their wedding day…
In 1908 Eli went back to what he first knew…cigars. He applied for a license to open his own cigar factory.
I don’t know if this license ever turned into an actual working factory, but census records and city directories show him making cigars until the mid-1910s.
One last move took the Stabley family to the shores of southern New Jersey. Perhaps news of a better-paying job was the reason to relocate as he became a dye operator for the E. I. DuPont Company in Penns Grove, New Jersey by 1917.
Eli wasn’t afraid to try new things…cigar maker, soldier, barber, and dye operator. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very long life. He died at the age of 56 in the Naval Hospital League Island, Pennsylvania, which became the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.
Genealogy Tip: It’s important to keep track of your research in some way. You don’t want to research someone only to find out you did the same thing years ago. You can use a notebook, a spreadsheet, or Airtable. Whatever form your research log is in, keep it up to date. It will definitely save you time and energy in the long run.
There are many ways to organize your research. If you need some tips and tricks about what I do, I’d be happy to share. Let’s work together to make this year your most productive yet.
1 National Parks Service (https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/yell-tour-fort-yellowstone.htm: accessed 18 Jan 2023), “Explore the Fort Yellowstone Historic District.”
2 Newspapers.com, digital images (https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 18 Nov 2019), “New Barber Shop,” The Gazette (York County, Pennsylvania), 28 June 1902, p . 1, col. 3.
3 Newspapers.com, digital images (https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 18 Nov 2019), “Seven New Factories,” The Gazette (York County, Pennsylvania), 1 Sep 1908, p . 8, col. 1.