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Archive for May 2012

Reading Society Journals

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I actually like reading the notes (footnotes and end notes) in society publications. The other day I got the new New England Historical and Genealogical Register and promptly sat down to read it. The best bits I read first were the footnotes for one of the articles on John Barrows, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Not that I had any real interest in Mr. Barrows or his descendants; the nature of the article, and the author, Martin E. Hollick, were the attractions. The article itself, the text discussion, and the formatting, were keys to my interest in first reading this article. Mr. Hollick is one of the more interesting writers and researchers for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and I like his work. What drew me to the article was the level of research skills on display.

Reading the footnotes, alongside the text, I found that Mr. Hollick used a large number of sources for his work, both published and not published. The sources he used in this article can serve as exemplars for my work when I research Plymouth families, or others, that he has researched in the article.

The format of the article, on the other hand, gives me an idea of how to go about putting together such a piece. The way the article opens, the structure of the event time lines, and the discussions that go with those events, are key to a good reporting style. The particular journal style of placing dates before places may vary from time to time, but that’s ok; it really just depends on the type of event you are discussing. The level of citation you use and the format of those citations will also vary, but, likewise, it depends on the journal you are writing for, whether you go into so much detail, or not.

The footnoted discussions can give you an idea of how much or how little to include in the text part of the article and how much to include in the genealogical summary part. These two parts of an NEHGR piece are particular to that particular journal, but can be roughly duplicated in your own article or book-length production. The details in each portion vary, but the important thing is that the sources are cited and any interesting bits are discussed: discrepancies between two sources, and so on. These footnotes are important to future researchers so that unnecessary research is not duplicated.

A journal like NEHGR is a major stopping point for researchers and is authoritative as far as journals go. Yes, corrections and amplifications are sometimes done, but most often the corrections are to old, old genealogy research, and amplifications are actually expansions on materials previously published in the journal, which helps even more for future genealogists.

The only downside of reading a society publication is that some of the other journals referenced in articles may not be available to the reader. This necessitates getting a reprint or photocopy request from a library for the article. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are several libraries with a number of major and minor journals available in nearby libraries. As a genealogist, I’m able and willing to do research in these materials for others who may need or want the materials, but are not able to travel to the library to get them, or get them through a library copying service.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

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Written by N. P. Maling

21 May 2012 at 00:01

Mount St. Helens at Pullman, Washington

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On 18 May 1980, I was living in Pullman, Washington, attending high school. This was shortly after we had moved from Ohio to Washington and it was a completely new experience for me.

The photo here was taken with a Kodak 110 camera, producing a small negative and grainy image at the best of times. My viewpoint here was the top of one of the reservoir buildings on College Hill, looking west. The view was of a sunset in the wrong direction, which was weird. Shortly after this, the ash started accumulating and became muddy. It still exists as a substrate under the wheat fields, fertilizing them.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Mount St. Helens at Pullman, Washington, 18 May 1980

Mount St. Helens at Pullman, Washington, 18 May 1980

Written by N. P. Maling

18 May 2012 at 00:01

Writing – Creative Non-fiction – Fiction or Fact?

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“Whose story was true?” From Keep it Real, page 77, asks where for the footnotes in historical accounts since the 1970s.[1]

The scope of genealogical and family history writing borders on creativity sometimes. How does one know which parts are fictions and which are verified, and verifiable facts?

One way to determine is the scope of research done by the writer. A writer may have included a preface or introduction laying out the basis for the writing. Another way to tell is simply which material is footnoted and which not. Spot-checking some random facts, or material stated as fact can give you an idea of the veracity of the writer.

  • If no citations, treat the entire thing as fiction
  • If well cited, tread with caution, especially when the data isn’t explained in at least some of the notes.

The article cited in Keep it Real also discusses the dry-as-dust historical writing and the trend away from it. Another question asked is whether the truthfulness of the writing is good or not depending on the marketing acumen of the writer/publisher affects the acceptance of one version but not another. In other words, is the truth subjective? Yes.

There are any number of genealogies out there which could be fact or fiction. The only way to tell is by checking spot only, or better yet, by reviewing the entire writing assertion by assertion.

For example: Without directly referring to the material in the Shearer book[2] on the Mellen family, I was able to construct a quite different view of Richard Mellen’s family. What my little publication on the web amounts to is a subjectively different view of the truth of Richard Mellen’s descendants. Essentially the same could be said about Simon Mellen, one of the alleged sons of Richard.

Again, the only way for a genealogist to figure out the most likely course of events is to compare both versions and decide on their own what the most likely discussion of assertions is the better.

Asking me whose story is true is asking a scholar whether his work is questionable. I will, however say that I believe that my account of Richard Mellen is the more accurate. Not having checked the veracity of the rest of the Shearer book, I could not say whether much or any is either fact or fiction. The only parts I have considered here, and in my writing are the lines from Simon and from Richard in New England.

[1] Gutkind, Lee and Hattie Fletcher, eds. Keep it Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2008.

[2] Shearer, Gail Elizabeth. The Mellen and Shearer Families: Pioneers, Puritans and Patriots. Baltimore, Md.: Gateway Press, Inc. 2000.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Written by N. P. Maling

16 May 2012 at 00:01

Re-visiting Sources – New Research

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Sometimes you come across a source, use it for one or a few personas, and forget it. Then you come across another persona who happens to be in the same source. Are you duplicating your research? Yes, no? Maybe.

It seems to me to be a good idea to re-visit sources that you’ve used in the past, like when you find an apparently unrelated persona. Revisiting the folks that you’ve already gotten out of that source enables you to pick up any details you may have missed the first time around.

Revisiting that source for previously discovered and newly discovered people allows you to strengthen their relationships, not only to you, but also between them.

A recent example in my research is about the Booth family of Connecticut as documented by Donald Lines Jacobus in the 1950s.

On the Booth family in Lenox, Massachusetts, I found that Lemuel and Mehetabel had eight children, including Josiah and Philo, six of whom are not referenced in the Jacobus genealogy of the family. While this line of ancestors was not the thrust of the genealogy, it seems odd that Jacobus didn’t know about the six kids.

The omission of such a large number of children shows that even a prominent genealogist can leave things out, or undone. Loose ends like this are the responsibility of later genealogists, to tie up and close some doors to possible incorrect information that might be circulating either in print or on the Internet.

Checking one’s own work (research) in this way improves your future work and provides a good exercise in checking the veracity of others’ work. Had I not followed on the statement in Jacobus about the family being in Lenox, I would not have found six descendants, or relatives, let alone the exact date of birth of Philo.

The evidence the Lenox records provides, though, seems to show that Philo was born in Massachusetts, and not Connecticut as other evidence suggests. The 1850 U. S. Census says that he was born in Connecticut, a probably direct statement, rather than implied as the Lenox record is. Which was it?

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Written by N. P. Maling

14 May 2012 at 00:01

Articles in the Spring-Summer Seattle Gen. Socy Bulletin

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The new issue of the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin is out. One of the articles in it is my contribution. It is a little database I constructed a number of years ago of citations to significant life events from the Washington State Supreme Court reports.

The lead articles in this issue are about the RMS Titanic and the Century 21 Expo in Seattle, in 1962. The Titanic articles include details of some of the passengers’ Pacific Northwest connections. The Expo article is a reminiscence of a society member They are all interesting!

See SGS Bulletin, Spring – Summer 2012, Volume 61, Number 2, page 89 for my piece. The bulletin is a benefit of society membership and is included within the cost. Non-members are encouraged to join and/or find a copy at a major library.

You can contact the society at SeattleGenealogicalSociety.org for copies or find it at your local library.

It is a fun and interesting experience to write for the SGS, and I’ll be contributing more articles in the future.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Written by N. P. Maling

8 May 2012 at 00:01

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City Directory Sunday: Spokane, Washington, 1940

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Written by N. P. Maling

6 May 2012 at 00:01

Genealogical Resources at the University of Idaho, Moscow

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The Moscow, Idaho, University of Idaho has recently put up a three-page description of their genealogical resources. It is a great guide to items available for genealogists in both their regular and special collections.

The selection of items includes:

  • digital items on their website and others
  • local and regional materials
  • electronic databases the university has access to
  • maps and atlases
  • other groups in the area who might be able to help you

The guide also contains basic tips on how to use WorldCat, the international bibliographic database, to search the library’s catalog from a distance. A few of the resources also reference Washington State, particularly the eastern portion, of which Idaho split off from in 1863.

These tips and lists of available items, produced by a professional who knows the pastime and profession, is a great resource for those researching northern Idaho genealogy.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Written by N. P. Maling

3 May 2012 at 00:01

Posted in Genealogy

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