Sea Genes

Family History & Genealogy Research

Posts Tagged ‘National Genealogical Society

Physical version of the Genealogical Data Model

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Written by N. P. Maling

7 March 2013 at 11:20

Using Off-beat Record Sources in Genealogy

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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.

NPM

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

 

Written by N. P. Maling

25 September 2012 at 00:01

Review: Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing, by Smolenyak

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Smolenyak, Megan. Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing. New York: Citadel Press. 2012.

ISBN-13: 978-0-8065-3446-6.

The chapter on the life and times of the Baker City, Oregon, madam and her family is among the best stories told in this collection of adventures into forensic genealogy. Smolenyak details her, relatively simple, as it turns out, foray into tracing Mabel Cavin through the early decades of the 20th century.

The Mabel Cavin chapter is a good case study for researchers hoping to work together in trans-continental genealogy research. Given that it is a bit light on the technical details here, the gist of the study would be good material for an expanded article in a journal such as the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly.

Another chapter, on the civil rights detective work is also a good example of how things can turn up unexpectedly, sometimes years later, in different contexts. This chapter gives the rundown on an investigation for the FBI concerning a murder in Texas which has yet to be solved. (?)

Mrs. Smolenyak’s adventures cover decades of her work for various governmental agencies and her volunteer work, as well. The chapters on the presidential et cetera genealogies are less interesting, but provide clues for other genealogists who are interested in the subjects and techniques discussed there.

SPOILER:

Mrs. Smolenyak now goes by Smolenyak2 in an acknowledgment that she is married to another Smolenyak. The details of why she squared her surname are buried in one of the later chapters, but knowing her history is a good clue as to why her name is written as such. Her description of genetic genealogy in her own research is also fascinating as it shows that even her family had secrets. These two chapters are also among the better stories.

Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing is a good read for those hours when you can’t do hard research on your own, and are able to bask in the pleasures of armchair detective work.

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

Written by N. P. Maling

24 April 2012 at 00:01

Writing for a Society Publication

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English: N.E. Historic-Genealogical Society, S...

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I write for the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin and it is an experience in learning how to put together a great article on family history. Having learned the ropes of how to research family trees and how to look up records in various sources, I’m able to put all of that data together in a comprehensive article to share with the community.

Many societies need new material for their newsletters and journals on a regular basis. Local, county, and state genealogical societies often have at least a newsletter. Some have journals of varying publication schedules: quarterly, semi-annual, and/or annual. Lineage societies such as the Mayflower Descendants also have journals and publications you can write for.

Journals other than those of the national societies such as the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly and the NEHGS Register often have broader standards for article submissions. While the Quarterly and Register articles often are written by professionals and peer-reviewed, many society journals have somewhat lowered standards for quality and source citations.

There are a number of considerations for writing for a society publication, such as their focus on a particular area, time period, or subject matter. Societies also have their own guidelines and styles of presentation.

Focus Areas

Finding a genealogical society or journal for a topic area is easy. One of the best ways to find an appropriate journal is to ask a reference librarian at your local library. The genealogy librarian is often familiar with the different journals and their focus areas and able to tell you which ones for which you might consider submitting an article.

A newsletter is often more appropriate for general articles. For a focused article, such as a compiled family tree, or ancestry genealogy, you might consider submitting it to a journal, rather than to a newsletter.

Speak with the society before you submit an article to query the editor for its appropriateness to their journal or newsletter. If it is, they are likely to accept and publish it. The article then becomes the property of the society, restricting your ability to re-publish or submit it to another society. If, on the other hand, a society doesn’t accept an article, you are free to submit it to another. Always follow up, within a month or two of submission to see whether the society has plans for the article.

Guidelines and Styles

Be sure to check for guidelines and style guides on the society’s website or contact them and ask if they have any idiosyncrasies. For instance, the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin uses the word “county” in its text and end-notes on its first occurrence. As an example: “Seattle, King County, Washington Territory.” After that, they just use the city or county name, as appropriate.

Benefits

The benefits of having written an article for a society newsletter or journal are three-fold. You benefit the communities of society members, people interested in the topic area, and genealogists or family historians who read the publication.

NPM

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

The New (Ir)Relevance of FamilySearch

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FamilySearch.org’s goal is to become the Google of genealogy. True, in a way. The reality, however, is that they aim to become a phishing and packet-sniffing site, with users (in)voluntarily turning over their genealogical data for the LDS church’s religious rituals.

How is this happening? The new ‘standard’ they have talked about, for a long time, replacing GEDCOM, is where it happens. They want to get all the major software developers on-board so they can use your genealogy application to give them your hard-researched data. They are trying to make it so easy to search their site and probably find nothing of value, but in the process you involuntarily give them everything of value. They want to ‘sync’ their database with your data while you think you are only getting data from their database into yours. They can do that simply because you’ve agreed to their terms of use. What terms of use? Read it carefully. It will most likely read something like “any information you enter on this site becomes the property of the LDS church. …”

There is an interesting paper floating around on the web that discusses some ways to get around the increasing irrelevance of the FamilySearch organization. It calls the National Genealogical Society’s “Standards for Sound Genealogical Research” document “disturbing.” The quote follows: “While these are sound principles for traditional genealogical research, they carry the disturbing implication that each researcher must verify the work done by anyone else by personally examining the original sources.” Traditional research meaning how any responsible genealogist does his or her work. The filename on the web is “10.1.1.111.2341.pdf”, and the title is “Efficient Genealogy through Personal Extraction and Automated Verification”.

The author of the paper, D. Randall Wilson, advocates creating a database of extracts collected from volunteers; you, whether you like it or not, for the church’s use and to lure other victims. The goal is similar to what Geni.com did: lure people in with free access and tools to share, and then make all of that data available for their church members to change; with you, the original, accurate recorder of the information standing by helplessly.

Mr. Wilson has also written another paper called “Bidirectional Source Linking: Doing Genealogy ‘Once’ and ‘For All'”, filename “wilson.fht2002.bi-link.pdf”. This paper’s title is, in itself ridiculous since genealogy is never done, “once and for all.” The goal of this paper is to create a linking scheme, with their network as the hub, for genealogists to use. They’d use data extraction and data mining tools on all the data crossing that network, and use the data for their own gain. The thing is, even though this sounds like criminal hacking or phishing, it would be ‘voluntary’ because the genealogist implicitly agreed to their practices.

The mere idea of Mr. Wilson’s ‘Bidirectional’ paper and his other (‘Efficient Genealogy’), shows how the LDS church views legitimate family history and genealogy, to an end for their own gain: not to share with others, but to collect others’ dead relatives and use those dead relatives for religious reasons. Somehow, I’m reminded of the Twilight Zone episode called “To Serve Man.” FamilySearch, the Family History Library, their databases, and other ‘genealogical’ resources have always been for the benefit of their members’ use: finding people to attach to their families and baptizing them; regardless of the dead person’s religious beliefs or spiritual leanings.

I’ve been a genealogist for over 10 years, and yes, I have used FHL and FamilySearch.org resources. Thing is, I’ve also always found a different, better source for the same information. Years ago, I used to see lots of references to FHL holdings in serious journals; today I see hardly any. Coincidence? Probably not. A shift in documentation standards? Could be. Like myself, others are probably also finding different, better sources than what’s in the FHL or in their databases. I heartily recommend avoiding any new overtures of data sharing from any group with ulterior motives like the LDS church has espoused.

Written by N. P. Maling

1 September 2011 at 14:22

In-depth Genealogy Research

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Genealogy is more than just looking at a record set, and copying the information found in that document. Occasionally, one can do valid genealogy research in that way, most times, however, it is not possible. Few people are lucky enough to have had their genealogies written already and fewer of those people are able to compile the entirety of a family history back to the fifth generation, at any rate. Given these facts of life, a professional genealogist is a great resource for the amateur family historian.

Most lineage research, both ancestry and descendant, involves detailed examination of difficult to read records. Old-fashioned language is the least of the problem; many records that genealogists use are poorly microfilmed and the context of a document, historical, legal, cultural, or otherwise must also be considered. Again, sometimes it is necessary to consult a professional genealogist, someone who understands the time, place, and context of a record.

Many times an amateur genealogist will contact a professional and ask that they do some in-depth research for them. A responsible and accountable professional will follow a number of steps in fulfilling the need of the amateur; to list them briefly, a professional should:

  1. Analyze the data received
  2. Check for availability of records
  3. Develop a research strategy
  4. Do original research; i.e., that not already done by the client or others
  5. Keep track sources examined and record all documentation
  6. Summarize the research
  7. Provide suggestions for further research

At the end of the research time allotted by the client, the client should expect to see much progress made on his/her stated goal as demonstrated with the above specifications. Even though the professional may not have solved the research problem, or completed the task, the client expects results.

As a professional genealogist, I follow the guidelines set forth above in working with a client to consult and tell them of any questions about the data provided and all results found in a project.

Some of the material in this article was abstracted from the GENTECH flowchart from the National Genealogical Society’s website.

Written by N. P. Maling

21 October 2009 at 18:13