Who Do You Think You Are? Genealogy Q + A

 I love this photo of My mom and grandma in the summer of 1950...couldn't this be a photo of me and one of my kids?

I love this photo of My mom and grandma in the summer of 1950...couldn't this be a photo of me and one of my kids?

Over the course of this summer, I have become incredibly passionate about genealogy and I've learned so much about my ancestors along the way. I've used the internet, county healthy departments and clerk's offices, visited cemeteries, quizzed and pestered all of my relatives and even connected with a distant cousin once removed at a small town gas station (she had photos of my third great grandparents!) I'm really proud of all I've discovered thus far, but I'm no where near stopping! 

Getting so far in my quest has been a mixture of hard work and a lot of luck. It's like my own real life mystery to unfold! I went out to you guys last week to get some of your burning family tree questions which I'll answer below! Some if it is a little repetitious from my previous post with my Top Ten Tips for Finding your Family Tree, but here's a refresher and some new ideas too! 

What is the best way to get started? Where should I start online?

Before you go signing up for your free trial, the very first thing you need to do is make a date with your parents, or even better, grandparents, to ask them what they know. Not all family oral histories match up to what you'll find online, but the more recent generations should be quite close. If you have the names of all four grandparents, or better yet, all eight great grandparents, you'll be able to get a great tree started. Ask for maiden names, other family members (like aunts and uncles, birth, marriage and death dates and where they lived) From there branches will grow thanks to other genealogists who have collected information and shared it online. 

I'll be honest, I didn't get a whole lot of traction in my first round of questions with my own folks. There are so many things I want to know that just don't seem interesting to others. But I think the persistence is paying off. When you ask enough times, relatives just seem to find old documents and know that you want to see them! In just the past couple weeks I've been handed birth certificates, older genealogy work done by past generations, scans from county records and photos galore! 

I chose to start my online quest with the free service from FamilySearch.org. I found A LOT of great info and leads there, but they don't have access to every single document, so I finally decided to get on board with a free trial at Ancestry. I've since decided to pay for a subscription for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because a lot of other genealogists use it and upload to it (such as with family photos) it's a wonderful tool for adding depth to each ancestor you're working on. Secondly, they just have more information, including scans of genealogy related books (for me, I wanted to see the first edition of The Roush Family in America, and Ancestry had it!)

Another key difference between the two is this: Family Search has one main page per person that many people can contribute to (and change for better or worse) while on Ancestry you build your own tree, but can reference other public trees. If you get back far enough there are professional teams at Family Search (I've heard of a Medieval team, for example) that verify those ancient records. Then again, if you have someone who was, say, a Mayflower pilgrim with millions of descendants (I'm looking at your Elizabeth Tilley!) then those records can have dozens of changes each week. If someone has new information = awesome! But if someone makes a mistake or makes an incorrect update then it has to be changed back. There are pros and cons with using that kind of system. On a positive I hope there are people watching all of the photos I have been updating to our common ancestors! I would be thrilled if a distant cousin of mine did the same! 

In addition to Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, I also decided to subscribe to Newspapers.com and have found SO MUCH there that fills in a lot of the blanks. Old newspapers printed things we might find inconsequential, like who had lunch and where last Sunday, but it can really help paint a more vivid picture of relationships from the past. In my case, it's also help connect some family members where I didn't have great documentation (like the 1890 census, which was almost entirely lost in a fire). You never know what kind of drama might unfold either!! 

Lastly, because of the big sale, Adam and I just ordered DNA kits from Ancestry. I have a family link I'd really like to know for sure where the paternity is a little questionable and I hope this gives me connections to solve that mystery. The kits are on sale for 40% off ($59 instead of $99) until August 20, 2018.

I've done what I can with census records, what comes next?

Census records are so great. In the later parts of the 19th century and onwards they really tell us a lot about who lived in what house, their relationships and usually who lived next door! In fact, what got me started on this whole research rabbit hole was looking up my own home from the 1940s census and my neighbors now lived in the same houses back then! I've also seen a lot of coupling up with neighbor kids who later got married.

Next start collecting vital records to confirm birth and death dates. Most of the recent versions of both of these will list parents, including maiden names. You might also find that your ancestors had more than one marriage and possibly children with another partner. This has happened in a few cases for me and I was able to connect with other FamilySearch and Ancestry users who had more details!

What do you do if there aren't documents online for your family? 

Don't be so sure there aren't! In my experience, sometimes taking a break and moving on to a different line helps give me ideas for other branches of my tree. For example - spelling can really vary depending on who was recording the information, especially because compared to modern times, far fewer people were able to read and write. A lot of names were Americanized as well like dropping accents or umlaut over the o. Two examples in my family line are Roush, which was changed from Rausch and Schroeder from Schröder - both German names. 

Check your state's vital records availability through Family Search. Most records post 1900 should be available, but if they're not, try the county's health department. I found my great grandparents, born in 1893 and 1901, which were not online. 

How much time do you devote daily to researching?

Depending the day I can spend between 15 minutes and a few hours. I check in on Family Search, Ancestry and Newspapers.com daily, just to see if any new hints are available. I also keep a notebook of questions and tasks I have for myself. Your ancestors will multiply quickly as you get back further generations and you can spend an entire week on just one of those great grandparents! Because I'm usually working while my kids are playing and can be easily distracted, it helps to have notes to go back to when you're able to pick it back up again. 

You seem to have found so much! Do you just have good luck or are there also dead ends?

When you're given a hint about a family member, it can be really tempting to just create a tree that's as big and wide as possible. Think it through. Do the birthdates make sense? Are they in the same state as siblings (or do they move westward, especially in the early 1800s when land opened up beyond the 13 original colonies?) I remember one of the first nights I was looking around on FamilySearch and dozens of generations later saw a connection to Cleopatra (and the early kings and queens of Europe). Other people told me they were connected to Noah or Adam and Eve. I get that there's a desire to connect yourself to the beginning of recorded time, but I also have no faith in humanity's early ability to keep reliable records. If you want to be serious, you'll want to seek out actual records. And sometimes, you just have to admit to yourself a link isn't correct. Remember what happened with Sarah Jane King?

Speaking of connections, don't be shy when getting in touch with other genealogists, especially if you share a common ancestor. I commonly write people who have updated a record of one of my family members and ask how they are related and do they know anything else that's not in the file for that person? Sometimes folks also have their settings set to private (on Ancestry) and I've found most are willing to share what's behind the photo or file with me. 

Do you think it's easier to search for US records? Any tips for first generation immigrants on international research?

I started my search with the goal of finding each ancestor from the time they came to the United States and connect it downwards. I haven't done much research beyond my American ancestors especially because I can't read German! I wish I had better advise for searching in other countries!

What was your goal when starting this?

My goals have changed a little bit since I first started building my tree. Initially I just wanted to see how far back I could go. Like I mentioned above, I have doubts on the validity of those really old records, so then I thought I would gather and confirm all of the documents for all of my immigrant and first generation American ancestors (and following generations). Then, because of some traction, I was made aware of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) which is a linage based genealogy club. Yes! I am currently in the process of submitting an application to join and proving my connection to a Patriot from the Revolutionary War.  If that weren’t enough, I've also started pursing a second line for a different Patriot (I have seven I'd like to check out!!!)

These ancestral connections to 18th century Americans have also really sparked a desire  in me to learn more about that time in US history, including another love of mine, costume history. It's a nerdy dream come true to have so many intersecting hobbies! 

While I finish my application and then wait for professional genealogists to verify it, I'm going to continue to flesh out each and every ancestor I've found. I've been calling on my parent's cousins and older living generations to conduct informal interviews and ask questions about their grandparents. I just want to know more about where I came from and get stories about those real living, breathing people. Lastly I am borrowing albums and copying photos for two purposes. Firstly to upload online so my distant cousins can see our shared ancestors and secondly for a legacy wall in my home. I have a couple gems going as far back as the early days photography (well... maybe mid 19th century) that I can't wait to frame. 

One of the things I love about genealogy is that you never know what you're going to find. I've uncovered some pretty big surprises and it's such a thrill to piece together all of the evidence you can find. How deep you dig is up to you! 

Please feel free to ask questions on anything I might have skipped over in this post (or others!) I am happy to answer anything that could help someone else!


Our Farmhouse | Sunroom Makeover

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This makeover has been a long time in the making! It's been nearly 10 months since we first started making changes and I am so excited that it's finally done. Like many other rooms in our home, this space has been revamped from floor to ceiling and entirely done by us (including my brother Dan and father-in-law Jim). Wanna have a look? Come on over!

White Washed Stone Fireplace and Sunroom Makeover


Let's start by checking out what this room looked like before we made changes (click on any image to view larger). It's such a cool space and it's absolutely what sold me on this house. I love the high ceilings, wooden beams and all of that natural light! This side of the house was a mid sixties addition and we even have the blueprints from the original owner! 

White Washed Stone Fireplace using Chalk Paint


All of the walls, floor and ceiling got a fresh coat of paint in addition to white washing the fireplace. The brown stone just wasn't for me and I love the almost Nordic feeling it gives off now. I mixed Rustoleum chalk paint in Aged Gray 50/50 with water and applied with a paint brush. It took just a smidge over two quarts and twelve-ish hours to complete this huge fireplace. 

The ceiling had some patching and water damage, so that needed a complete paint job. Thanks to my 6'7" tall brother, I was able to pass over the job. Phew. He also took care of the floors (using garage floor paint) while we were out of town. 

On the walls is my go to white - Chantilly Lace from Benjamin Moore. It's a warmer white which helps keeps things from feeling too sterile.

Black and White Sunroom Plants Jungalow Style

Iron Work

Railings between the first floor and sunken living room were a necessity for safety but stylistically, the midcentury scrolls were not really our style. We opted to simplify the design from a double curved shape to a horizontal run and matching stair rails. Josh of Clutch Fabrication did the custom design and installation and if you have the chance to work with him, I can't recommend him enough. The matte finish rails really set the tone of both the dining room and sunroom and give the space a really modern farmhouse vibe.

Farmhouse MCM hybrid custom iron railing
Kids Play Area CLEAN
Sunroom Railings MCM Farmhouse White Washed Fireplace


The south wall originally had what I can best describe as  window box style wooden feature with seventeen (17!!) exposed bulbs creating an uplighting effect over the two sliding doors (see before photo above).  There is only one electrical point, so Adam wired it with conduit and then routed the back of 3x1" boards we used around the entire room (we kept the paneling and needed the horizontal railing to conceal the seams). Adam then installed these lights, which came in at under $30 a piece, which I think is a great deal for such a handsome light. 

New Lighting


This built in bookshelf and shelves were originally painted the same color as the walls but I decided to use a contrast color on the back boards. When the stone was it's original color I used a really pretty pale green but the whitewash needed something different so I chose Peppercorn in a matte finish from Sherwin Williams. The actual wood from the shelves was reclaimed from the old stair treads leading down to the living room from the upper level. Adam cut them to length and sanded them to the smooooothest finish and I coated them with a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil. 


As far as the shelf decor goes, everything is second hand or pulled from another room in the house. I like to regularly move accessories around from room to room! Here are similar baskets (I use them all over my home!)

Fireplace and Bookcase


When we moved in I bought the black leather couch (with a matching ottoman currently in another room) for $100 off Craigslist. The large black leather chair next to it is from Article and it's awesome! I will buy a couch from them when I'm ready to upgrade this one or for another room. Between the two of those, there's a side table I picked up second hand and made over with primer, paint and some new knobs.

Sunroom Makeover

Behind those pieces is a vintage radio I had in my old house. It's a great piece for interest and character and perfect for hiding cords and gadgets (the front opens up to reveal an old record player that doesn't work)

On the opposite side of the room is a kids sized table my dad built along with some modern style chairs. 

Vintage Radio and Plants


On the floor are two sizes of the same indoor/outdoor rug from Ballard. This pattern hides all the dirt which is great for kids! I layered a smaller rug on top of the big one in front of the fireplace which was from Hobby Lobby. 

The pillows on the couch are a mix of homemade, second hand (sort of!) and bought new (back in 2017!) From left to right - a pillow I made myself, one from Loloi by Joanna Gaines (named Joslin if you're searching!). The front owl pillow is another one I made using a vintage embroidery I found out thrifting that I removed from a frame and used as the front fabric. 

MCM farmhouse hybrid


Because of the abundance of light we have a lot of plants in this room! On the fireplace is a fiddleleaf fig, in the bookshelf and on the radio are pothos plants. Plus we have that groovy 1960s built in planter and the big ledge for our huge monstera! 

That's our sunroom makeover! Wanna hire me for your next home project? I'm available! You can see all of our farmhouse updates here!

Notes from the Field | 012

 One of the dozen plus red sunflowers that all grow on the same plant! I'd never seen so many flower heads on the same stalk until this year! 

One of the dozen plus red sunflowers that all grow on the same plant! I'd never seen so many flower heads on the same stalk until this year! 

Hello! Although I generally dislike blog posts that start by saying, "sorry! I've been busy!" that's exactly how I'm starting this one. I have been busy! All good things!

Last weekend my kids took a field trip to Nana and Paw's house so Adam and I had 48 hours to get work done around the house. I chose to finally complete a big task in my sunken living room and when I'm able to wrap up some loose ends this week I can happily stamp DONE onto that 8 month long project. And by eight months I mean that we started it last year but have been just living with it's completion in bits and pieces. I have some paint I need to touch up and a door to re-trim and then it's time for photos, baby! Even though it's taken a while, it's a huge difference from what it looked like when we moved in. If you haven't seen my other makeovers, here's a link to all of them!

Another big thing I've been putting both physical and mental energy into is planning out head to toe 18th century ensembles for the whole Quirk family. After going to the Jane Austen Festival a few weeks ago (see my previous post), I've been diving head first into costume research. I'm currently working on my own set of stays (an 18th century corset) and I hope to have my gown finished by the end of the month. The one thing that has me teeter tottering is whether or not to go 100% accurate. It seems like there are tribes who research down to the thread (silk!) and others who just stitch it up in whatever fabric suits their fancy. Part of me thinks GO FOR IT! GO ALL THE WAY! and the other, more rational (and time/economically aware) self says - it's just a costume. Don't get caught up in whether or not your print is a decade too old/young for the dress. At the end of the day, it's going to be fun, we're going to look great and I should ENJOY the process, which pushes me more to the less expensive fabrics and using a sewing machine over hand sewing. I am using a pattern based on a dress from the 1770s, so that's a great place to start. Down the road I can always make something more accurate (like if we journey to Colonial Williamsburg next year!) but for now, I'm going to do the best with what I have!

Lastly, I've put the wheels in motion to apply to the Daughters of the American Revolution. I met with my local chapter's registrar and coincidently, we're 7th cousins once removed! We both feel like I have a pretty strong body of evidence to connect my linage to a Patriot who fought in the Revolutionary War! I didn't even know about this group until I went down the rabbit hole of 3 am genealogy (you know what I mean, right?) and a few people suggested it on instagram, so I'm really excited to meet more ladies locally who are into the same thing. 

So that's about it! I'm still getting chills listening to Hamilton full blast while flipping through my costume history books, doodling 18th century outfit ideas and looking for the next weekend Rev War re-enactment in the Midwest. It's funny to me to remember that when I was a kid I dressed up in pioneer clothes to school, (photos here!) and here I am, planning out how I can do it again with my own family. 



Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove 2018

 an interpreter uses the natural light to do some last minute stitches at locust grove in louisville, ky during the 10th annual jane austen festival.

an interpreter uses the natural light to do some last minute stitches at locust grove in louisville, ky during the 10th annual jane austen festival.

It's official. I've fallen down the rabbit hole that is historic costume. I can barely wait to get into my first set of stays, set my hair into a neoclassical updo and slip into a sheer cotton regency frock. I've been bitten by the bug and I'll never be the same!

On a whim this Saturday, I decided to check out the Jane Austen Festival held annually at the Locust Grove in Louisville, KY. Two thousand eighteen marks the 10th festival which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Austen's novel Persuasion. 

Lately I've been following a lot of historic interpreters on instagram (many pictured here!) who were preparing for the event and it piqued my interest enough to drive down to experience it for myself.  I didn't have time to sew up a regency day dress, so I decided to play street style photographer circa 1818 instead. Everyone looked so lovely - these men and women really bring their best Austen era finest! It was an incredible experience. I had SO much fun and now I have plans to go next year! How could I not?  

And as I laid down my son down to sleep I thought back over the whole day - it really did feel like a page out of an Austen novel. There were the groups of friends that felt a little like the established ladies of society who kind of ruled the show (and nothing wrong with that at all!) The naval group had all the pomp and circumstance one expects from the King's men. Then there were newbies like me, kind of like wide eyed does taking it all in. The setting at Locust Grove was perfect backdrop to the ninety plus degree day which was lovely despite the heat. Do you have a favorite ensemble? Comment with your choice. My personal favorites are the pink dress pictured first and the women's navy military redingoat with yellow sash! 

So without further ado, check out my photos! Can you believe the variety and beauty of these looks? To say I was impressed was an understatement - this group brought their A game. If you see your image and would like a copy, feel free to grab it directly from this page or email me and I'll send over a digital copy. I just ask you to credit either my blog (if you're posting on your own blog), facebook, my instagram handle @starsandfield if you post there!

I took over 400 photographs, so if you recognize me but don't see your picture, please contact me. I have many more I would be happy to share! 

Now who's in for 2019? Will some seasoned vets take me under their wings?

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 This is a group of regency fans from St. Louis! They were the first ladies I saw as I arrived to the festival and all looked so amazing!

This is a group of regency fans from St. Louis! They were the first ladies I saw as I arrived to the festival and all looked so amazing!

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JAF Fabulous Trio.jpg
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 The matriarch of this family sewed these ensembles for her whole family! There are three generations pictured here! Lovely! 

The matriarch of this family sewed these ensembles for her whole family! There are three generations pictured here! Lovely! 

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I spoke to the gentlemen in this photo for quite a while! He's a historic interpreted at The Hermitage in Nashville, TN! I didn't get his name but it was a pleasure to chat with you!

 Hello to some fellow Hoosiers! 

Hello to some fellow Hoosiers! 

JAF Lemonade Boy 2.jpg
JAF Yellow and White Ladies.jpg
JAF Society Lady in Partial Mourning Attire.jpg
JAF secrets.jpg
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JAF white with military jacket and hat 1.jpg


HMS ACASTA | Royal Navy

Group that portrays the Royal Navy circa 1800-1800. Read more at their site

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Last but not least - here's What I Wore - a modern outfit ever so slightly inspired by the festival. My dress was a Goodwill find, I blocked my own hat and my parasol is vintage! 

JAF What I Wore Jessica Quirk.jpg

Notes from the Field | 011

Hey friends! I have a spare minute here while the kids are watching the Muppets to say hi. So... hi! Summer is feeling very much like it did when I was a kid. It's hot as hell but when it's even remotely tolerable we've been outside. 

Last week we took a vacation to the lake to spend time with family. I've always wondered if I'm the only one who gets annoyed with my husband, kids, parents and siblings on family trips? I'm so jealous of people who seem to get along perfectly with their entire family because someone in our bunch is inevitably crabby.  I ended the week feeling really exhausted and bummed because it wasn't really as fun as I had hoped for. But like my friend told me the other day, vacations with kids are just bringing your problems to a new location. And man - it stays bright really late in Michigan! We were lucky to wind out kids down by 10pm and then we took turns sleeping with one kid in the bed and one on cushions on the floor. 

Anyways, I really do understand there are worse problems in the world than having a vacation dealing with all sorts of over tired people. I think about that a lot actually. I have a really nice life and I'm really grateful. I also know that hard is hard and it's ok to be frustrated with your circumstances. I really don't have the right balance figured out, but probably like many of you, I'm working on it. 

Speaking of feeling lucky, I spent most of Saturday in a daze and counting my blessing after the kids and I were hit by another car in an accident. Everyone, including the other drivers, was ok, and out of the three cars involved, only one needed towed. The experience was jolting emotionally and made me feel so stupid about the little things I've complained about recently (such as the aforementioned vacation grumbles). Those kinds of sharp impacts really do snap you into sort of an existential quest. 

The other take away I had from the accident was the sincere kindness of strangers. No less than three cars stopped to help direct traffic before the sheriff arrived (this all occurred on a state highway which is pretty busy in the summertime). A neighbor of mine nearby helped me get in touch with my husband and held my kids while I talked to firefighters, EMT and the sheriff. Everyone was really amazing. And the thing that crossed my mind in hindsight was this - no one stopped before helping the other person to ask "who did you vote for last election?" or "who do you pray to?" or "tell me your thoughts on gun control?" None of it. People are people. And if I completely disregarded social media I'd probably walk around this world really delighted that mankind is so... kind. And really, at the core of my heart, I do believe almost everyone just wants the best for their families and communities. I'm starting to feel like politicians and the (enormous and corporate) machines behind them are playing on single issues to turn us all against one another.

I'm going to let those thoughts simmer a little before I write about them more, but imagine what could happen in a third viable party - run by women, was like "ENOUGH OF THIS BULL SHIT DUDEZ! We're not getting anything done!"? Will it happen in my lifetime? Could I be a part of it? All things to think about. 

I'll jump away with that. And leave you with some of my latest photos from rolling with my homies (err... children) on drivenaps around the countryside. And from my kitchen and backyard. 

And... does anyone read this anymore? Until next time....