I started the 30X30 genealogy challenge on May 1, 2018. This challenge is the brain child of genealogy blogger, Janine Adams of Organize Your Family History. She challenged her readers to complete some genealogy research every day for 30 days for at least 30 minutes. I decided that I would focus my research efforts on my 2X great grandparents, Jake and Josie Skipper, and their children. I wanted to find Jake’s death date and where he was buried, and I wanted to learn more about Josie’s move to Saginaw, Michigan in 1940. Also Josie changed her name to Walker sometime before she died, so I want to learn more about where new last name came from. So I had my work cut out for me.
I had to figure out how I was going to get my research time in. I recently got a new job, so I didn’t have a quiet house to research in anymore because I’m the last to get home now instead of the first one. But finding time to research was easier than I thought it would be. My new job is on the University of Arkansas campus, so I would go to the library during my lunch hour. I would spend 30 minutes researching and that left me with 30 minutes to actually eat my lunch. This system worked out great for me. What really helped me during this challenge was that I kept a small notebook with me at all times. I would write down anything that was research related for that day, which websites I was using, books that I was reading that could help research this family, if I sent any emails out that were about my research, if I used Google, the search combinations I used, and what I found everyday. And I would review what I had done on Friday’s and close up any loose ends during the weekend.
I started my research by looking up what information would be available to me at the U of A library. I found a few books that I could check out as well as some records and manuscripts in the special collections. The first week of this challenge I spent in the special collections going through records of Stevens Funeral Home from St. Francis and Woodruff counties and the Currie Papers, a prominent family from Woodruff County, Arkansas in the 1850s and 1860s that owned a general store. The collection included receipts from the store as well as personal letters about people in the community. I didn’t find any information about my family specifically, but I was able to learn about the community and what it was like to live during that time. The next week I read through the books that I had checked out from the U of A library, Cemeteries of Woodruff County and History of Point Township Woodruff County, Arkansas both by Adelia Kittrell. Cemeteries of Woodruff County had most of the cemeteries in Woodruff County listed along with the names of the people buried there. It also listed unmarked graves. My hope was to find where Jake Skipper and his children that died young. I read through the cemeteries listed as ‘Colored’, but didn’t find their names. I have these books checked out until late June, so I’m going to go back and reading through the other cemeteries as well.
The next week I emailed a family friend and asked if he had done any research on this side of the family. He responded and sent me what he had found, which was mostly the same information that I had. In reviewing my past research of Josie, I remembered using the Saginaw Obituary Index website. That’s when I noticed that the obituary was published in the Saginaw News. So I contacted, through email, the Saginaw Public Library to inquire if that newspaper was on microfilm and if so could I check it out through interlibrary loan. The librarian responded telling me that yes the newspaper was on microfilm and if I had a date and name that she would review it, copy the obituary, and mail it to me. I received that obituary and the obituary of Josie’s son Tillman (who died in 1959 in Saginaw as well) a week later in the mail.
Also the Saginaw Obituary Index listed Josie’s church as Bethel AME Church in Saginaw, Michigan. So I googled the church and sent an email to the pastor’s secretary last week stating that I’m researching my family’s ancestry and recently discovered that my 2X great grandmother attended this church and if there were any records from the 1940s. She responded a couple of days later and said that she would have to look through an off site storage unit to know how far back their records went. So I plan to follow up with her in the next couple of weeks.
Although I didn’t find all the answers I was looking for, I feel like I got a lot accomplished during these 30 days. I was able to find some records and learn more about the community of Woodruff county during the 1860s. This challenge helped me to focus on my research. I am also learning to get out of my comfort zone when it comes to research by contacting libraries and churches for information. I don’t have to be the one in the library looking for records, someone else can do that and mail them to me, and I’m just as excited when I get them in the mail. This challenge gave my research a much needed reboot that helped me get over some frustrations and disappointments that I have been experiencing recently. It only takes one great genealogy find to make everything right in the world again. And this is why my journey continues…
To read about my first 30X30 Challenge, click HERE.
To read more how I started researching Josie Skipper Walker, click HERE.
To read more about me utilizing the Saginaw Public Library from Arkansas, click HERE.