Posts Tagged ‘Family history’
Weil, François. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. 2013. ISBN 9780674045835.
Family Trees begins by detailing the basis for keeping many of the records that our ancestors kept. He goes on from there to detail the large pictures over the next several hundred years of genealogical research. Weil goes into some detail to discuss how the people and the methods they use are changing over time.
The book is well organized. He weaves each major section of the book together expertly and places each major player in their respective time lines: the record keepers, fraudsters, and reformers all have their places.
The discussion toward the end of the last chapter is especially pertinent today as it deals with the democratization and commercialization of genealogy and family history research. Weil details the industry and its effect on genealogists.
One of the points the National Genealogical Society makes in its “Standards for Sound Genealogical Research” publication is to:
“seek original records, or reproduced images of them when there is reasonable assurance they have not been altered, as the basis for their research conclusions”.
is a good one. One of the major sources of genealogical information is Ancestry.com. They offer a huge amount “reproduced images” of “original records.” The images however, have sometimes been altered to show ownership of that record. This is an improper practice given that the original has been modified in ways that sometimes cut their validity and use as primary sources of information.
Notwithstanding the policy of Ancestry, Inc. to give accurate records, they are claiming ownership of materials that are in the public domain and/or not eligible for copyright protection. These records have become compilations, according to the NGS’s standards.
“use compilations, communications and published works, whether paper or electronic, primarily for their value as guides to locating the original records … ”.
By citing directly to the record compilation as provided by Ancestry.com, one is effectively using a secondary source. Even though Ancestry does offer a clue about the original source, it remains a fact that their records are only “guides to locating the original records”.
Many genealogists find that the records provided by Ancestry.com to be enough for their purposes. This is unfortunate, however, as using this record group is only one step in the research process. Finding the record closest to the original is the next step.
Using the census as an example, one would best go to the nearest National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility to view the record on microfilm. This is what I do for my research and I cite the record as such. I also do this research professionally for those researchers who prefer the best sources available.
The records from Ancestry.com are useful only as “contributions to the critical analysis of the evidence discussed in them”. This analysis aspect is good for all records found online as the majority of records we use as genealogists are not found online. The originals are found in repositories such as the NARA facility in Seattle, Washington where I do my research.
As a genealogist for hire, I find an obligation to do this type of research not only for myself, but also for others. It is one way to give back to the community. Although I do ask that my expenses be covered, as a professional ought to, it is a business transaction of the simplest sort. You can contact me and arrange for lookups in a number of primary records available through NARA or another repository in the Pacific Northwest region.
© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research
I’ve been reading Family Origins, by J. Horace Round. It is an interesting book, not only because it discusses an area of genealogy which I’m interested in learning more about. It has an interesting introduction about “historical genealogy,” a subject that has gotten a lot of press recently as “historical biography.”
Mr. Round (1854–1928), an Englishman, was a prolific author of texts on early British genealogies, focusing primarily in Family Origins on those ranging back to Norman times and the conquest of England by William the Conqueror. In this particular introduction, Round describes a “new” school of genealogists who take pride in sourcing their research and citing it. He also discusses the historical bases for genealogical research in England, with passing reference to American genealogy. These discussions pre-date even Donald Lines Jacobus, the premiere American genealogist of the 20th century.
Family Origins dissects, deconstructs, and straightens out various pedigrees going back to Norman and medieval times. Knowledge of archaic Latin and French may be helpful in reading some of the quoted passages, however; but due to Round’s explication of the texts, it may also be unnecessary.
The text goes into some detail on the importance of not only names, but also places. The importance of place in historical genealogy, as Mr. Round practiced it is that one must know the place where the name originated, as it was often taken from the place where the people lived. In the case of the peerages Mr. Round discusses, these places are sometimes in Normandy, part of the France of the time, on which he focuses much of his research.
An example of Mr. Round’s diligence in the study of genealogy is the following quote from page 107:
“It is … of real importance for the critical study of genealogy, to collect and set on record, cases in which evidence has been forged or falsely alleged to exist, for the purpose of affording proof of a wholly fictitious pedigree.”
The statement here quoted pre-dates even E. S. Mills and the Genealogical Proof Standard as goals against which we work. It goes directly to the goals of the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ ethics, which it also pre-dates.
Round seems to take delight in demolishing various pedigrees found in the Burke peerages and their brethren. He also takes on other genealogists’ work and dissects them live, in front of the reader as if he were there discussing them with you. That is the kind of genealogical writing I like at the moment. This book makes good bed-time reading, so the lessons can sink in and be absorbed.
1. Round, J. Horace. Family Origins and other Studies. London, 1930. Reprint Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield Company, 1998.
There are some people, like me, who are not quite satisfied with just one program for genealogical purposes. I use several, and keep an eye out on the others for features that might suit me well.
is one of the programs I use on a semi-regular basis. It is an old program (console window, anyone?) and has a long history of strong development by the maintainers. Thomas Wetmore originally wrote it back in the olden days of Unix and DOS, but it’s still around.
One of the things I like about Lifelines is it’s powerful scripting language. This language takes a bit of getting used to but once you know it, it seems intuitive. The program comes bundled with a lot of scripts, some better than others, and some near-duplicates of others. The verify script is one of the most powerful sanity-checkers on the market (did I mention that Lifelines is free?). Some of the things it reports on are age boundaries (birth, marriage, and death), multiple marriages, kids out of order, and so on. Several scripts check for people who might be in the Social Security Death Master Index. Another script called, weirdly enough, zombies, looks for people who don’t have death items (death, probate, burial, and so on).
I ran verify recently on a 5500+ person database and it came up with nearly 1600 items that it thought were interesting and that fell outside of user-programmable boundaries. It’s not for the faint-of-heart to look at this report as it can be a lot to digest. The nice thing about the report is that when I go through it, item by item, I can tighten up the quality of the data on a semi-regular basis, and gain a semi-regular consistency for the entire database. It might take years to finally go through the entire list and complete each item, but knowing about these items is the important thing.
Like verify, the zombies script reads through the database and plucks out those that have death items. This report is much simpler, and sortable so you can find the people by year, instead of in database order. The great thing about this report is that you find out who is in the database that is not marked as dead, dead, dead, as in dead. The script doesn’t consider the deceased flag, if there is one on the person, it makes you think about getting the details, and you’ll want to go out and get the details right away.
If you’ve added a lot of what I call “the moderns” you’ll want to run one of the SSDI check scripts and follow up on a visit to the Death Master Index on your favorite online site that has one. I used to use the one at Rootsweb.com, but Ancestry.com removed it to their own site for some reason. Shucks, the Rootsweb version was better, IMHO.
Enough about the great Lifelines scripts. Multiple programs for genealogical data analysis are a must if you are serious about the pastime. Knowing what’s good data and bad is a good idea, as well as ethically correct. My other genealogy programs include an old version of Legacy, and a current version of The Master Genealogist.
TMG is the one I use on a regular basis as it is almost as powerful as Lifelines in the analysis and reporting facets. The only drawback to TMG’s reporting is that it’s not as flexible and programmable as Lifelines. Legacy, on the other hand, even though my copy is quite dated, is pretty good at picking out bad data, too. Even though I haven’t used Legacy for a while, like Lifelines, I keep it around as a variant finding tool.
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?
© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research
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.
© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research
- Articles in the new Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin (seagenes.wordpress.com)
- Writing for a Society Publication (seagenes.wordpress.com)
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.
© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research
- Seattle and Portland are Great Places for Genealogy Research (seagenes.wordpress.com)