By Request: What are “The Advil Notes?”

Friday last (16JA2015) was #genchat and questions flew about faster than most participants could type.

One discussion was Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over as one way to re-organize one’s research.

Another question (forgive me I forget who asked it, The Pirate Queen, I believe) dealt with being more organized when dealing with genealogical research: documents, photographs, digital media, desk, etc

That got me thinking: I am way ahead of the game for the Genealogy Do Over; I started back in 1982! Or was it 1986?

May 1982 was when my maternal grandfather passed away, but it was that summer when I went to visit the great aunt I never knew I had and her family.

While with them I inherited a copy of family history notes.  “The ATKINSON Genealogy,” or the TAG book (1966) as it is affectionately referred to by many now, contained drop charts and some narratives written in Elite — a font style available to a typewriter as opposed to Pica. Does anyone remember TYPING courses in high school, not KEYBOARDING? (Keyboarding was used to describe Piano lessons in my high school.).

These notes were very informative. Some detail into the communities were included, as well as prominent businesses run by family members for two and three generations.  The original notes were compiled in 1927.

By 1966-67, descendants decided to mass produce the TAG Book to share with everyone, for as cheaply as possible.

gestetnerA Gestetner mimeograph machine (example at left) was borrowed and the copying began, but there was only one downfall:

These originals were published “AS IS.” Massive errors and omissions of entire families were mass produced, knowingly — and without citations.

Yes, there were no citations. 

I found quotes from historical texts that were no longer in print.

There were references to special collections from the OHS (Ontario Historical Society), visits to cemeteries and interviews with aged family members. (It would be the early 1990s before I was able to identify most of these references.

Unfortunately, there are still a few I have not been able to decipher.).  Hence the name: The Advil Notes.

Approaching the task to re-vamp and sort out the mess into a format I could comprehend and remember (for the most part) involved dissecting the book.

Yes, you heard me. I took it apart.

Now, it wasn’t really a book. It was a wine-coloured duo-tang with about an inch of single-sided paper in it. (If you were to look at it now, it has expanded into 23 one-inch binders, six plastic banker’s boxes, 1TB external drive [50% full], an assortment of ZIP disks, floppy disks, 3.5 disks, bits on Ancestry, more bits on FindMyPast, PDFs in The Cloud and Dropbox, and too many thumb drives filled with census records, gravestone photos and what-nots.)

When I began to format my notes, I did not have access to a computer. I used a typewriter.  I was permitted to use the electric typewriters during lunch at my high school. And to keep track of my references, I had a notebook divided up into sections, one for each of the 14 sub-groups of the third generation of the family.

NOTE: There were also two other ATKINSON families in the TAG Book that were thought to be related, but no information was available to substantiate the claim. I was not able to find anything over the years either and strongly believe that DNA testing would put the final word on it. The only setback is finding willing ATKINSON males from the two uncertain families to take the test with my cousins.

The original drop-chart format was a series of columns running down the left side of the page. Each column represented a generation. The name immediately beside the columns was born into the family.  The name opposite was, of course, the spouse.

Children would then be listed under the parents in birth order, with the appropriate generation column ticked.

The format looked fine until the family member “parent” remarried.  Then the second, and subsequent, spouses would be listed, after the previous marriage children, to the right hand side of the page with no one listed at the left.  A very messy situation with my relatives marrying three and four times!

ROOTS III — yeah, how many of you remember THAT one?


My set-up influence came from a genealogy software brochure promoting ROOTS III.  The brochure examples had each generation tabulated across the page, with the corresponding generation number in square brackets before the individual’s name. Following the person’s name would be an alpha-numeric value also in brackets; this was the person’s identification number.

It took about five years or so to type up everything that I had — so all of junior high and high school.  It was very difficult, as you can imagine, coming from a large family of prolific rabbits!

When I was finally able to use a computer, don’t laugh. It was a 486. WordPerfect was a God send! At any time, I was able to input data for all the new-found family members faster than taking an “instant picture” with a Polaroid! 


I decided that listing all spouses under the family member would be easier to understand. Separating the children to each marriage would involve “a, b, or c” following the identity number.

References and proofs would then accumulate at the right hand side of the page with full listings at the trail end of the document.

Now, how the citations are listed has changed a few times. I need to keep it simple and if I find a way that is such, I use it.

Some citations (for example actual newspaper obituaries, notices, etc) are one format. Census records, BMD certificates and military service records are another format — particularly if acquired from the big online genealogy websites.

There are still many NOT holes — it’s NOT him or it’s NOT her — in my research, but the earliest generations are well documented and fellow family genealogists are slowly finding me to compare notes.

One such cousin lives in Calgary, Alberta. She piggy-backs off my notes to aid her in finding gravestones of our relatives that need to be photographed. She has located at least one hundred of them from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario!

Back in Ontario, many of my cousins I re-connected with last month are scanning old photographs of our grandparents, our parents, etc to share and identify.  I am hoping one day to see wedding photos of our parents and our baby pictures — THAT should be fun!

Dad and Mum starting honeymoon APRIL1962

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.