My Top Ten Genealogy Books

This week, the ProGen study group I am mentoring asked me to share my top ten genealogy books. Below is a snapshot and a breakdown of my answer.

*Keep in mind, these are my top ten GENERAL genealogy books, not my top ten books for genealogy professionals, which would be a different list (for another day!).

In order of importance:

    1. The Source, by Lou Szucs: my genealogy professors assigned this as required reading, starting at my first genealogy courses, and it was a staple textbook in several genealogy courses throughout my time as a genealogy undergrad. I found it to be an *extremely* helpful resource, and I consider it a must-read for anybody who wants to learn genealogy.
    2. Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy by Christine Rose and Kay Ingalls: don’t be put off by the goofy title; this book is more comprehensive and informative than some books that teach advanced genealogy research techniques, plus it refers to/quotes all the foundational genealogy works any serious researcher should own, which will help them to build their library as they go, which many those other guides don’t do. The authors are also credentialed and renowned authorities on the subject.
    3. The Family Tree Problem Solver by Marsha Hoffman Rising. I already touted my reliance on this text in a previous post; it is one of the secrets to my pushing through those “brick walls” when I get stuck on a research project, because Rising presents every possible solution in this book. I can’t recommend it enough.
    4. Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills: this book is required reading by the Board for Certification of Genealogists–your citations must be formatted in accordance with the style in this book or you cannot become board-certified, nor will your work be in accordance with the Genealogy Standards (manual) which they also require. (Note: ICAPGen does accept other citation formats, so Accredited Genealogist® applicants can use other citation styles–for example applicants from other countries who are accustomed to styles used in their homeland are welcome to keep using them.)
    5. Courthouse Research for Family Historians by Christine Rose, recommended because Rose is a consummate scholar who teaches about the record types that hobbyists often overlook, and because anybody wanting to undertake serious genealogy needs to leave their desk and hit the courthouses. Hobbyists are desk jockeys, but serious genealogists know how to go out and find offline records.
    6. Black’s Law Dictionary is a must-own because researchers can’t adequately understand the records they find in the courthouses mentioned above ^ unless they have a reference guide to the laws behind those records. Black’s Law is that reference work. Be sure to get the older editions, because newer editions won’t cover the laws from your ancestors’ time periods. I found it cheapest to get multiple editions on CD-ROM.
    7. Elements of Genealogical Analysis by Robert Charles Anderson. The “genealogical proof standard” (GPS) for proving one’s family history is a big buzzword in genealogy these days, but the rules of the GPS don’t include any standards/methods for sequencing/connecting the dots when identifying ancestors, nor for presenting findings. This book does–it maps out how researchers can logically prove ancestors’ identities via linkages and other helpful strategies.
    8. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood. This work isn’t as crucial or as comprehensive as The Source (above), but Greenwood imparts a lot of valuable knowledge about the census and other record-types, making this book a staple for American researchers.
    9. The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. DNA testing is an integral part of genealogy research today, and this book is my preferred guide to learning the ropes.
    10. Mastering Genealogical Proof, by Thomas Jones. This book teaches readers how to master the Genealogical Proof Standard, which I mentioned with book #7.

 
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© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The Intentional Genealogist

~ Good Vibrations

Any experienced genealogist will tell you how often our ancestral discoveries are helped by incredibly serendipitous occurrences–how often we miraculously stumble across random scraps of paper embedded in ledgers that we opened by mistake (when we meant to open the one beside it), or chance encounters with a person who holds the answers we’ve been seeking for years, but whom we met only as the result of some bizarre incident.

Ancestral kismet happens so often to genealogy researchers, in fact, that Geoff Rasumussen–the host of Legacy Family Tree webinars–recently published a book about such experiences, though the stories I have heard from my fellow researchers and genealogy students could fill several volumes more:

In my daily work as a professional genealogist, I have noticed that this special genealogical mojo ebbs and flows. When I have it, my projects unfold smoothly and all goes well, but when I don’t have it, I hit the proverbial “brick wall” and can’t find the information I’m looking for.

~ Tips for Good Genealogy Mojo

When I feel my progress on a family history project begin to lag, I’ve found that it is usually because my life is out of balance. When I restore that balance, the mojo returns and I usually find what I am looking for. I call this living the spiritual life, or what some might call, in secular terms, being “an intentional genealogist.” This might sound silly, but let me give an example of what it looks like:

When unable to find information on an ancestor, I will typically stop and take a look at my day or my week. Is my life out of balance? For example, am I so focused on genealogy that I am neglecting my family or other people who need me? If the answer is yes, then I stop what I am doing and put living people first. I feel very deeply that those who have passed on care about the living (we genealogists have a sixth sense for these kinds of things) and that they don’t like it when I focus on the dearly departed while neglecting those who are still with me. That neglect brings a sort of bad karma, bad mojo to my workspace, and blocks my ability to progress professionally.

~ How I Discovered This Phenomenon

One night, in the throes of a busy evening of research, I almost told my kids to eat “whatever was in the fridge,” because I was so excited about my client’s research project that I didn’t want to stop. My kids typically just ate cold cereal on nights like that. I was researching the life of an Italian American woman who gave birth fifteen times, but lost the majority of her children in infancy to various illnesses or stillbirth. But as was about to send my children to fend for themselves in the kitchen, I suddenly felt this strong impression that the Italian mother I’d been focusing on all night would NOT approve of my children eating cold cereal for dinner while I traced her family tree, because Italian mammas love to make sure that their families are well fed! So I stopped what I was doing and made sure that my kids had a hot meal and were tucked into bed with songs and stories. Once I had done so, my research project went more smoothly than ever, and I made a few bonus discoveries that night once the kids were asleep. I felt very strongly afterwards that this mamma was intentionally NOT letting me find her famiglia earlier, while I had been neglecting my children. Call me crazy if you will, but the impression overwhelmed me to the point of tears as the records practically fell into my lap only after I had lavished that love and attention on my children.

I now try to make a phone call, sit and talk with a child about their day, send someone an email of appreciation, or send out a thank you note–take care of any good deed FOR THE LIVING left undone–before I sit down to do my research work.

The result of these efforts has been pretty consistent over the years: the more good deeds I do for the living, the more good mojo I have for uncovering the secrets of the dead. I now aspire to be a consistently intentional genealogist.

~ Intentional Genealogists

I believe that when we work hard to do more good deeds for the living, we will see more good come back to us in the form of questions answered, discoveries made, and mysteries solved in our genealogy research. It is just a theory, but I invite everyone to put it to the test and tell me what they discover! 🙂

Here is an infographic I made for some of my students about intentional genealogy and how it might fit into a research strategy. It is just one idea; you will find your own as you learn how to work an live intentionally:

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© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

***COMMENT RULES: I only press “allow” on comments that are positive and friendly in tone. Genealogy is a labor of love, and we genealogists are a friendly bunch who love meeting kindred spirits! 🙂

When the records don’t give answers, EVIDENCE will

Are you having trouble finding the records that identify an ancestor’s parents, or the place where they were born? Then you might need to master the art of genealogical proof in order to prove, on your own, who their parents were or where they were born.

Proving the relationships, events, or identities of the past  is something that I’ve been doing for years as a professional genealogist, but ALL researchers can master this skill with the right tools. Below are some infographics I use when teaching the basics of genealogy proof and evidence to my students. I’ll also include some must-have guides for learning how to prove what happened in the past when you just can’t find the records that spell it out for you:

evidence-and-proof-in-genealogy-infographic.jpg

Because my students struggled most often to differentiate between information and evidence, I made a special graphic to walk you through that difference, just to make sure everybody understands where the two diverge:


An example from the infographic above would be in the statement, “The exclusion of his daughter Mary from his will and testament is evidence that either she was disinherited or that she had died before this date.”

How to Find Evidence

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For those who want to learn how to uncover evidence in genealogical records to help prove what happened in the past (even when the records don’t come right out and say what happened), here are the must-reads for your family history library:


Mastering Genealogical Proof is on my shelf and I’ve read it cover-to-cover; it will walk you through exercises like a textbook, so you get to learn from the author as if you were taking a class from him!


Genealogical Proof Standard is a quick read (small, pamphlet-like book) by one of the greatest genealogy authors in the industry, and will teach you how to present your findings according to the most trusted and reliable genealogical conventions, so that future generations don’t discard your conclusions as uninformed or wishful thinking. I found this book extremely helpful when I first began writing proof arguments!


Evidence Explained is perhaps THE most crucial guide on every genealogist’s shelf (I own it in both hard copy AND digital!), because, in addition to defining all the key concepts pertaining to genealogy evidence and proof, it also is a giant citation guide (akin to the MLA guides and APA guides we used in college) for the very unique discipline of genealogy, to help researchers know how to cite everything from unpublished diaries found at your local historical society to a newspaper clipping that you copied out of Grandma’s scrapbook. It covers everything you need to know in order to properly cite all the sources that you draw from when building your family tree. Without citations, all of your years of research will be deemed untrustworthy to future researchers, thanks to the Internet, where so much falsehood circulates.

Also, Robert Charles Anderson’s book, Elements of Genealogical Analysis teaches readers how to prove kinship via evidentiary linkage, a type of “logic for genealogists” guide that none of the other books offer. Since formal logic/deduction is no longer taught in the schools, this book is also a must-have:

With these tools, you can write a fully cited, “proven” family history that will pass the “suspicious Internet junk” test and endure through the ages. Good luck! 🙂

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PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

***COMMENT RULES: I only “allow” comments that are positive and friendly in tone. Genealogy is a labor of love, and we genealogists are a friendly bunch who love meeting kindred spirits! 🙂

My Big (un)Scholarly Historical Discovery

I made an exciting discovery about everybody’s ancestors that appears to *almost* debunk (or, I hope, enhance) a noted scholar’s theory. The circumstances are almost comical, but my case is quite compelling–I hope readers will weigh in and tell me what they think!

In the genealogy world, an article went viral in social media circles a year or so ago, citing the book of Roger Ekirch, an historian at Virginia Tech who discovered evidence of that our ancestors slept in different patterns than we do today, for example by awakening and spending a few hours engaged in activities before then engaging in a “second sleep” period each night.

You can read more about these sleep cycles of the past in the following articles and blog posts:

https://www.sassyjanegenealogy.com/sleep-like-your-ancestors/

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16964783

http://blog.myheritage.com/2014/10/our-ancestors-sleep-patterns/

Now, the *reason* for the ancestors sleeping so differently than we do today isn’t spelled out in the articles. I confess that I have not had time to pick up Dr. Ekirch’s book yet, as much as I want to (I am a bibliophile who really *should* be on the road to recovery, but alas will still not admit that she has a problem! My to-read pile almost takes up more space in this house than my children!), but from the articles, it appears that Dr. Ekirch believes that the invention of the electric light had something to do with the change from the “many sleeps” cycle of the past to the more steady, uninterrupted sleep of today.

However, over the past few months, I made a little discovery that almost debunks (or, I hope, better informs) this theory about the electric lights, so I will share it here–

In December, my husband’s employer unexpectedly closed their doors.

Unfortunately, they did so just as we were about to purchase a new boiler furnace (on credit!) to replace our old one, which had cracked and died. Needless to say, we could not get financing for the new one, now that my husband was out of a job!

So what did we do? Well, we started living like the ancestors here in our nearly one-hundred year old home, and I stumbled upon an interesting discovery relating to Dr. Ekirch’s theory–

Our house was freezing cold everywhere but the family room, which is where we have a fireplace, so we moved the children into the family room at night to sleep. My husband and I slept in our room, which is down the hall from the family room. And every night, no matter how high or hot we stoked that fire, we awoke at 3 a.m. sharp, because the fire had ALWAYS died out!

Always, by 3 a.m. on the dot, my husband and I awoke, like clockwork, because the house was so ice cold that our bodies awakened out of sheer shock (we felt the cold) and paternal/maternal instinct that feared for our children’s safety. As soon as we sensed that the fire had died, my husband would get up, gather wood, and stoke up the fire again, while I would go around covering up the kids, who had always kicked off their covers, which made the poor things’ skin practically turn blue!

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 11.11.58 AM

Cots, sleeping bags, pillows, and teddy bears, all lived around our fireplace this winter!

And then we would return, all shivering and freezing, to our own beds. By then, from all the cold and exertion, we were usually all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so like the ancestors in the articles, I did usually find myself reading, writing, on social media, or doing some genealogy, yes. We also talked, watched movies, or whatever.

All winter long, my husband and I engaged in the “two sleeps” described in this article, because we had no choice–the fire *always* went out by 3 a.m., and the house was always stone-cold by that hour, so we were always up and about tending to the fireplace and the sleeping kids at that hour, which awoke us both fully. It was so fascinating!

Even now now that the weather has warmed and we are no longer stoking fires at 3 a.m. and we have “sprung forward” for the time change, I find myself automatically awakening at four a.m.! I try to use that time to work on genealogy projects or writing, to make good use of the time, rather than wasting it. But I get a good chuckle as I ponder the fact that I may have accidentally stumbled upon the answer, in real life, to what a scholar has been looking for on paper–the reason why the ancestors were always up halfway through the night. Because they were COLD and worried about their children! 🙂

Indeed, I believe that fires, more than electric lights, are the reason behind the “two sleeps” our ancestors experienced back in the day! Something much more parental, Darwinian, more “survival of the fittest”–er, warmest–was at work here, I believe! 🙂
JTsig
 
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PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

***COMMENT RULES: I only “allow” comments that are positive and friendly in tone. Genealogy is a labor of love, and we genealogists are a friendly bunch who love meeting kindred spirits! 🙂

Organizing Genealogy Data for Word via Scrivener

Several weeks ago, many countless genealogy customers were stunned to learn that their genealogy software would be discontinued. I posted some professional advice to my blog readers: the only truly universal and long-lasting program for recording family history data is Word. You can read that blog post here: https://genealogyexecutive.com/2015/12/09/protect-your-genealogy-when-software-discontinued/

Now a reader has written to ask me about moving their family history data to Word. What does this look like, they want to know? How do they get started?

In this post, I will share with you how I am doing this very same thing for a relative whose genealogy database I recently inherited, as I shared with you in some past posts here and here.

~ Word to the Wise

Please keep in mind, taking thousands and thousands of names and records that have been entered into a databases over a period of DECADES is not something that you can just cut and paste into Word all at once. At least, I can’t. I can’t just open a blank Word doc and start entering or cutting and pasting from a genealogy program. That would take me hundreds of hours to untangle the mess!

Instead, to get started moving your family history database from family history software to Word, there are a few shortcuts that I use, instead.

**Please note: I came up with this little process after asking around for years and never being quite satisfied with other methods out there for organizing genealogy in narrative format or word processing programs, so please, if you use it, mention you got it from me, will you? Thanks! 🙂

~ What I Do

Here’s how I am transferring my relative’s LARGE database from genealogy software to Word:

1) First, I make an RTF file of the individual’s paternal  and maternal ancestry (an “Ahnentafel”) that includes all notes and footnotes but excludes images, leaving out the first living relative who compiled the database, and starting with the researcher-relative’s parents, thereby cutting the two sides of their family tree in half so that I can make two separate files. (Otherwise, the computer has a meltdown when I try to make one gigantic Ahnentafel with everybody in it!) Obviously, I can skip this division if the family file is very small.

2) I import this file to Scrivener

3) I use Scrivener’s “split” feature, which divides the huge Ahnentafel file into separate generations with their own folders–thanks to Scrivener’s “Command-K” shortcut, this takes mere seconds. I simply put my cursor next to each generation and hit “command K” to start a new file, as this video shows:

4) Next, I cut and paste the former genealogy software’s endnotes into Scrivener’s footnote fields, since Scrivener makes footnoting easier than Word does. I can then export the document into Word when I am done, where the footnotes will be perfectly formatted per Word footnoting conventions.

5) I then look at what my relative has done for each ancestor and make a list of things I need to do to clean up and perfect their work before I export the data from Scrivener into Word.

I spend a LOT of time editing erroneous citations, or moving a lot of data from “notes” into an actual family history narrative–things that the relative had culled and filed away in the notes section but not realized were actually helpful evidence. I also highlight and/or re-do questionable research, and go in search of records for unanswered questions. It is slow going!

My task list usually includes research, looking up records, and fixing footnotes. As I go, I refer often to my handy dandy copy of Evidence Explained so I can cite my findings properly, because as I look up and verify evidence, records, and relationships in this narrative and then straighten out the data and its footnotes, the information in this pedigree goes from heresay to verified!

I also refer often to Numbering Your Genealogy as I go, just in case the genealogy software didn’t do its job properly when it numbered tricky relationships.

But Scrivener is my greatest bridge to porting everything from the genealogy software to Word–I would be lost without it! Here is what my screen looks like as I work in it:

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 11.07.28 PM

Note how I organize my ancestors into Scrivener’s files and sections, numbering them according to Ahnentafel structure to keep them organized.

6) Then in the media folders below the ancestor folders (not visible here), I store the ancestors’ records so I can pull them up and look at them while I am crafting their citations, etc.

So as you can see, I basically keep the project in Scrivener for the duration I am cleaning it up and organizing it as it transitions, then I export it into Word only after I feel like it has been sufficiently scrubbed from the effects of the database it used to inhabit (for example, all the “” are gone).

This is because Scrivener makes it easier for me to see each generation at a glance, as well as each footnote at a glance, and I can also pull up each record while I am entering its data much more easily in Scrivener than I can with Word, so this is my go-to program for transferring genealogy files from genealogy software to Word. It is my go-to for many other types of projects, too, but this is one of its many uses! 🙂

Then, once everything is all cleaned up and organized, I can export this family’s file into Word–Scrivener will send it to Word as all one file, divided into chapters. A book, basically.  But for now, it is a collection of separate files in Scrivener to make my editing process much easier–I love it!

I hope this helps anyone else out there who is contemplating protecting your family history data by preserving it in Word! If you have any questions about this type of project, please feel free to contact me! 🙂

(Please note: I am not a Scrivener affiliate–I received no compensation for mentioning this product here or anywhere else. I just really like it and find it useful!)
JTsig

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PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Reader Question: Slaveholding Ancestors

This week’s genealogy question comes from Pam, who wants to know more about the following ancestor:

Patience Julia Mobley, b. 1856 in FL-d. 1907 in FL.

the daughter of

Zilpha Smith, b. 1810 in GA (I think)- death unknown and

John Riley Mobley, b. 1810 (I think) in GA-death unknown.

Pam further writes:

  • I have reason to believe that all of the Mobleys had indentures as well as slaves. In the 1850 census, there is a Charity Thompson living in the household who is in fact an indentured servant.
  • My question is how do you research indentures and slaves???
  • How do I KNOW that this John Riley Mobley is indeed descended from John Rickard Mobley?
  • Why aren’t there more records available to me regarding this family?
  • I don’t fully understand how indenturing works…Seven years and you’re free to leave? Seven years and you’re free to live as the head of household’s wife? Does your status change in some way? Does being an indentured wife involve the usual wifely duties in addition to something more?
  • I am trying to confirm or negate that these particular Mobley’s are descended from slaves (either or both of them)… Did these men ever marry their slaves?

 The Genealogist’s Answer

To answer all of your questions, I will divide my answer into three categories:

1) What web sites to search

  • I begin all of my online searches with Google–I Google the ancestor’s name alone if it is rare, or their name plus locations and dates, if it is more common.
  • Then I move on to genealogy sites (like FamilySearch and Ancestry.com) and any local sites hosted by historical associations or heraldic organizations near the area my ancestor lived.
  • I also Google state records, and consult Michael Hait’s eBook, Online State Resources for Genealogy.
  • Then I check for any federal records pertaining to an ancestor, by using the US National Archives’ search engine OPA

Once I have exhausted online records, I start doing offline research.

2) Next step: Offline Research

Online records will likely not give you enough evidence about the identity of your ancestors, so you will need to look for information about them offline, too.

For this phase of my searching, I do all of the following:

  • Visit the courthouse in the county where my ancestor lived, or
  • If their courthouse is too far away, I order microfilm copies of the courthouse’s record’s on FamilySearch
  • As I go, I make an inventory of what I have found, to make sure I haven’t missed anything

~ To learn what offline records FamilySearch has for your ancestor’s hometown, follow this tutorial: http://tdgen.com/2014/02/22/how-to-find-microfilmed-genealogy-records/

~ To learn what other offline records exist for your ancestor’s hometown, look it up in the FamilySearch wiki: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Main_Page

~ Be sure to Google the name of your ancestor’s town with terms like “genealogy” and “records,” in order to locate additional helpful resources!

3) How to find out more about slave-holding ancestors, indentures, and intermarriage:

I can recommend the following excellent reads about slave-holding whites, their relationships with slaves, and what life was commonly like in slave-holding plantations:

INDENTURE:

white cargo book

White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh

INTERMARRIAGE:
hairstons book

The Hairstons, by Henry Weincek

SLAVERY:

kinship book

Communities of Kinship by Carolyn Earle Billingsley

4) How do you KNOW who is really descended from whom, and why aren’t there more records about this family?

Pam, I’m not Accredited for African American or gulf states research, but the following genealogists are, so you might want to consider contacting them for a consultation: http://www.icapgen.org/find-an-ag-professional/by-accreditation-region/united-states-regions/united-states-gulf-south-region/

In the meantime, here are my simple answers to this question:

You will know which historical data is most accurate and what other records are out there after you study these guides:

 HOW TO FIND ALL THE BASIC RECORDS:
idiots guide

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy

HOW TO FIND/ APPLY THE MOST OBSCURE RECORDS:

ft problem solver

The Family Tree Problem Solver

HOW TO MAKE CONCLUSIONS ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THE PAST:

gen analysis

 Elements of Genealogical Analysis

Thank you for your question, Pam–as you make progress, please send me your updated research logs and charts, and I’d be happy to explore them, as well, on our site for additional discussions about your fascinating case!

JTsig

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PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Infographic: How to Find Genealogy Evidence

Today I made this infographic to help my genealogy students understand the difference between genealogical information and evidence. I hope it helps other researchers out there who are learning how to analyze historical data, too! 🙂
How to Find Evidence

To save a copy of this to your research reference files, simply right-click on the image and then save it to your hard drive.

UPDATE: I have since made a longer evidence infographic which you can view here at this link: https://genealogyexecutive.com/2016/10/13/when-the-records-dont-give-answers-use-genealogy-evidence/

Good luck in your research, everybody–happy hunting! 🙂

JTsig

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PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.