Category: Reviews

We must know the genealogy questions before we can find the answers.

It has become increasingly apparent recently that there are two distinct schools of thought regarding quality and depth in genealogy research. There are the genealogists who believe in working only with well-sourced, proven information – and then there are those of us who started our genealogical quests simply for the pleasure of doing so. Before either camp can begin searching for answers, they much first know the genealogy questions.
must know the genealogy questions

We must know the genealogy questions before we can find the answers.

My own research (see my Blythe Database) started with a curiosity about our history because I grew up in a military family that moved a great deal, and therefore I had very little opportunity to meet with near and distant family members to learn family stories and lore.

I do agree with the article “Take time to produce well-sourced, quality work,” on the Genealogy Today site, in which they respond to another article by Sharon Tate Moody in the Tampa Tribune, entitled “Drive-by genealogists should learn a few rules.” I am one who looks at unsourced information as possible clues to breaking down brick walls and answering questions. Although the information itself may be unsourced and seen as questionable, it can be regarded as a clue. When I receive gedcoms from others, or access information online, I do not discard what could be valuable information simply because there are no sources cited. I note the information, making it part of my own database, intending to return to it, find and cite concrete sources as I can.  Yes, I’ve found mistakes, but I have also found wonderful information allowing me to enlarge upon my family’s own stories.

I believe in the researchers’ responsibility for assessing the quality of the data they receive from others. I never take sources cited by others at face value, always working to find the sources cited and attach concrete proof in the form of images, etc.

Although a great deal of the Blythe Database attached to this site is not sourced, the majority of it is – the result of tireless work and ever increasing expense over 15 years. I have a clearly stated ‘Data Quality’ disclaimer linked in the upper horizontal menu of every page and post, and it states:

“The Blythe Database is my genealogy research in its entirety and is an ongoing process. I spend a minimum of four hours a day researching sources to verify data.

I have been researching genealogy for over fifteen years and you will note that I classify all sources by quality. If it is a poor quality source it is clearly indicated as such…

…It is common for there to be gaps in data and sources and in these cases I will use the individual anyway and either leave sources blank (indicating no sources found) or will clearly indicate source quality. It is up to the person using the data to use the information as classified.

I continually search out sources and documents to verify data and improve on substantiation. I have made some of my best discoveries using unsourced data as a starting point and I would hate for those clues to not be available.

This site is an effort to provide open, free sharing of genealogical information. However, all information is only as good as the sources cited.

I will gladly make corrections to data providing the information provided can be substantiated by the submitter with a source…”

Let’s face it: it’s quickly getting to the point where information gleaned from others will rarely include sources, images, etc. as more and more researchers become protective of their data. I understand as I struggle with my decision to openly share ALL of my information, but ultimately feel I’ve made the right decision, hopefully promoting more open and cooperative sharing of data by others as well.

Genealogy is a passion for me – and others. I enjoy the hunt as much as finding those elusive facts and sources. Maybe it’s my inner detective struggling to get out. Whatever the reason, my database will always have a substantial amount of unsourced data as I continually stumble upon new and hopefully ‘breakthrough’ information. I do, however, spend as much time as I can finding evidence and sources, but find (and I’m sure others do as well) that each new discovery raises numerous new questions, and finding those answers takes a great deal of time and effort.

There will never be an end to my quest…

photo credit: droetker0912 via photopin cc

I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.

Ideally, I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.

I’ve long been a proponent of the open and free exchange of genealogy data to ensure ready access to information for everyone researching their family history.

This morning, however, I read “Cooperation Makes Records Available for Free” at FamilySearch.org and it made me think.

As much as I’d like all genealogical data to be free, I can understand someone wishing to recover their costs of researching the data.

Database profile for Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky, including references to numerous images, documents and sources. (Click on the image to see in full size.)

Although the costs of genealogy research have reduced considerably over the past two decades due to computers and the increasing availability of records, images and data online, we’re seeing a correlating increase in sites online offering valuable data for a fee of some kind, making free data harder to find.

FamilySearch.org is one of the few sites still offering data for free.

In my case, ALL of my data (including images, sources and documents) is available online for free download. I do not charge for anything. I do, however, make revenue from ad clicks and sponsored posts on my sites. The end result is that, at least at present, I can offer all of my data for free as the ads pay for the upkeep and maintenance of my sites – for the most part.

There is a delicate balance here, though. As long as I can afford to offer this information free of charge it will remain so. If there comes a point where I have to recover my costs, I will have to either charge for downloads or remove the site from the internet altogether. Rest assured that this is not anywhere in the foreseeable future.

I’ve also seen a marked increase in the amount of personal genealogy data online that is ‘locked’ or marked ‘private’. I have contacted the owners of such data and in most cases they have been very forthcoming and willing to exchange information. In a few cases, however, the owner can be very protective of their data and will not make it available. Luckily, these appear to be few and far between at present.

I welcome the exchange of data offered by anyone doing genealogy research. It is important that this information remain available. One caveat, however, is to ALWAYS categorize the data as it appears when received. If there are no sources attached, it is questionable at best and it is important to use this information as ‘clues’ to further finds. Do not take this information at face value.

I have a very large database and about half of the data is sourced, while about half is not. I am constantly actively seeking and adding sources to prove the data.

I have received some criticism for this. One researcher contacted me about a particular line of information because it was claimed I had a place name incorrect. Little did this person know I had lived in the area for 21 years and knew it very well. To say this person was hostile is putting it mildly. I couldn’t believe it when it was demanded that I remove the lines pertaining to HER RESEARCH as she was the researcher of this family and I had no business researching it since our connection was only by remarriage, adoption and the birth of half-siblings. She also demanded that I remove anything that was not sourced or proven. To do as she demanded would break up lines and create gaps, leaving me without clues to search for sources to prove the information I do have and fill the gaps.

As I stated above, a good portion of my data is accumulated through free exchange of information, including the import of gedcoms of other peoples’ research. The sources (or lack thereof) remain as they have cited them, but I do search for actual copies of listed sources to attach where possible. I leave unsourced data as I receive it until I can research it further and I categorize any sources I have confirmed or added.

It is important to realize that cooperation and goodwill among researchers is essential to keeping the lines of communication and free flow of information open. Once we start becoming territorial and protective of our data, we contribute to the scarcity of information and increased costs for all.

Again, although such data can be invaluable as clues to further research, it is important to note that all sources are only as good as the attachments and assessed quality.

My top ten: Best world-wide genealogy and ancestry websites.

After almost twenty years of genealogy research, there are certain sites that have become my ‘go to’ sites for certain aspects of my genealogy research. I thought it might be helpful for me to post my list of my top ten genealogy and ancestry websites.
Internet Archive

Internet Archive Search

I have also included a description of the reasons why these sites have proved invaluable to me. If you’re looking for information in these areas, be sure to check out these sites.

The headings are links to the sites described and paid sites are indicated by ($) following the heading.

1.  FamilySearch.org

Maintained and updated by the LDS (Latterday Saints) Church, this site has been invaluable for all of my time researching my family’s genealogy. In the past few years in particular, the databases have expanded substantially as the LDS organization works to digitize more and more information. Recently, the search feature has become much more effective and accurate. No matter what country, region or time frame you are researching, this is a wonderful site. Best of all, it is free.

2.  Ancestry.com ($)

Ancestry.com is a favorite for all of the reasons listed for FamilySearch.org, the only difference being that a paid subscription is required. Although I do use Ancestry.com a great deal, I plan my research so I don’t have to remain subscribed all of the time. As I research and find gaps, I keep a ‘to do’ list and when it is large enough to warrant the cost, I will subscribe for as long as I think is necessary, tackle my list, and cancel the subscription when I have completed my list. It has been almost a year since I last subscribed because I’ve been finding a substantial amount of information elsewhere. I am due to subscribe pretty soon to tackle my current ‘to do’ list.

If you’re looking for one paid site that provides extensive data from around the world, this is the one.

3.  Cyndi’s List

Cyndi’s List is the largest site that offers extensive links to genealogy sites and resources on the internet. Cyndi has worked tirelessly for decades creating this site of over 300,000 links – sorted, categorized and constantly updated to maintain currency and functionality.

Recently, however, Cyndi’s List has been the target of a hacker who stole her entire site, making minor changes to ‘make it their own’ and attempting to divert revenue to themselves. Be sure the site you’re visiting is actually Cyndi’s List and help protect her extensive investment and our valuable resource.

4.  Olive Tree Genealogy

Olive Tree Genealogy is an extensive portal of links to valuable data and genealogy research information around the world. Although I do find this site somewhat confusing and difficult to navigate, my investment of time and effort has proved valuable as I have found wonderful, obscure data that I was unable to find elsewhere.

5.  Foundation for Medieval Genealogy

You should have seen my surprise when my husband’s ancestry connected directly to nobles and royalty in the medieval period. For the longest time this was a vast brick wall for me as there is very little quality data available online for researching this time.

I can’t remember how I found this site, but it’s an amazing resource as it’s extensively researched and sourced. The sources are described in detail and where there are questions about the data, they make it clear so we can note these gaps and questions in our own research. Where they have drawn conclusions from the existing evidence they examine the evidence and describe their conclusions.

6.  Directory of Royal Genealogical Data: University of Hull

This is another well researched site about royal genealogy from the University of Hull in England that also covers the medieval period, but they are not as clear about the quality of their sources, the evidence they’ve used to form their conclusions and the reasons they formed the conclusions leading to the published genealogy.

7.  Internet Archive

Besides finding and sourcing dates and events, I also enjoy finding the details of the lives of our ancestors through written accounts. Access to these publications has helped immensely with writing this blog by enabling me to understand the circumstances and times in which our ancestors lived.

Internet Archive tops Google E-Books on this list because it is totally free.

8.  Google E-Books

Google E-Books is essentially a site offering paid and free access to public domain written materials and books with a very accurate, intuitive search feature. If you use the link in the heading, however, it is possible to search only titles available for free access and download. To find free titles, be sure to check ‘Full View’ when conducting a search.

9.  Rootsweb

This is a free site offered by Ancestry.com. It’s a valuable resource for providing free access to user input data and family trees. Although I don’t entirely trust the data offered on this site for the simple reason that it is made up from ‘user input’, it has been very valuable to me when encountering those frustrating brick walls. I use the information here as ‘clues’ which have helped me break through those brick walls.

This data is recognizable in my Blythe Database because I do not enter sources or indicate very poor quality sources. Those using my database should interpret these facts as questionable at best.

10.  GeneaBloggers

GeneaBloggers was the genius idea of offering a directory of genealogy blogs. When I have some time on my hands and just want to explore what others are doing and saying, I start at GeneaBloggers.

Have fun checking out these sites!

Replacing “Genealogy News Bites” with new daily newsletter, “Empty Nest Heritage Daily.”

As of this week, my regular post “Genealogy News Bites” has been discontinued and replaced with “Empty Nest Heritage Daily.”
Mt. Cheam

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Genealogy news bites to August 5, 2014.

The following are the most recent genealogy news bites and genealogy and ancestry headlines up to and including August 5, 2014.

Genealogy news bites to August 5, 2014.

Genealogy news bites and headlines to August 5, 2014.

The National Archives

Loan to Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax

Last week, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax opened the exhibition “Prize and Prejudice: Nova Scotia’s War of 1812.”   It is a companion to the War of 1812 exhibit organized by the Canadian War Museum…

FamilySearch Blog

Magnifying Volunteers’ Gifts: A Progress Report

FamilySearch recently reached a significant milestone: one billion images of historical documents are now viewable on FamilySearch.org. That’s one billion pictures of documents. Of those images, how many would you say are indexed and searchable by name? All of them? Half of them? Would you believe less than 22 percent…

GulfLive.com

Hattiesburg woman’s passion for genealogy helps area families

Genealogy — the study of family histories — started out as a hobby for Hattiesburg resident Helen Clunie. It soon grew into a passion and has become a way that Clunie makes a difference by preserving the records of area families for generations to come…

Library and Archives Canada Blog

William Redver Stark, the Soldier and the Artist

Canada’s experience of the First World War was captured by officially commissioned artists such as A.Y. Jackson and David Milne from 1916 onwards through the Canadian War Memorials Fund. However, many other artists—amateur and professional…

KimKomando

Essential free genealogy family tree site

The Internet provides an abundance of sites to help you with genealogical searches. But it would be tedious to search them all individually. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this. Instead, head over to Family Search. This site combs through public records to find the information you need…

Daily Digest News

Skull analysis reveals insights into human ancestry

Scientists recently concluded that humans experienced a relatively sharp drop in testosterone about 50,000 years ago, which aided in the cultivation of modern human civilization, by looking at human skulls.

Times-Herald.com

Facebook leads to genealogy discovery

Recently, playing around on Facebook really paid off in a big way! Lindy Hayes posted a picture of a tombstone her sister Ashley had discovered in the crawlspace of her home. The inscription read, “Joseph E. MOORE, born June 1, 1853, died Oct. 8, 1868.”…

Green Valley News and Sun

Genealogy Today: Great vintage photos at Shorpy site

If you love to look at old photographs, or if historic images of where and how your ancestors lived 100 or so years ago interest you, you will love Shorpy, http://www.shorpy.com/…

Agabond

DNA ancestry tests and Black Americans

Unlike other Americans, Blacks had their ethnic identity and history taken from them. Even Native Americans know which tribes they come from. DNA tests can help to recover some of that missing information. There are two kinds of tests: admixture tests and lineage tests…

Olive Tree Genealogy

Nursing Sister Constance Philips WW1 Photo Album – A Bio

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5″ by 5.25″) kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One…

FindAGrave Volunteer Accidentally Damages Tombstones

One of Tennessee’s oldest church cemeteries had several tombstones permanently damaged recently. A FindAGrave volunteer is suspected of damaging several historic graves with a wire brush  at the New Providence Presbyterian Church on Stoney Point Road in Surgoinsville…

Ancestry.com Blog

AncestryDNA Matching Update Impacts Jewish Ancestry

AncestryDNA customers with significant Jewish ancestry have witnessed the challenges that we and other genetic genealogy testing companies have faced when predicting genetic relatives…

Be The Star of Your Own Who Do You Think You Are? Show

Have you watched Who Do You Think You Are? and wished you could travel the world to discover more about your own ancestors’ past? Then we have a giveaway for you! We are picking one lucky winner for the ultimate Who Do You Think You Are? experience…

Long-Lost Sisters United After 60 Years Apart

Long-lost sisters Carol and Amy went most of their lives never knowing of one another until their passion for genealogy brought them together in 2013.Veteran genealogist Carol Moss was adopted 60 years ago and only last year decided to research her birth mother’s history…

Irish Independent

Princess Charlene of Monaco’s Irish ancestry revealed

New research has traced Princess Charlene of Monaco’s ancestors back to the 1520s and a prominent Dublin family called the Fagans.
The research, carried out by genealogy researchers Eneclann for Tourism Ireland, shows that Princess Charlene descends from one of the most successful gentlemen-merchant families in Dublin in the 16th and 17th centuries…

Express

Julie Walters discovers murderous ancestor on genealogy show

Veteran actress JULIE WALTERS was left stunned while tracing her family history on genealogy show WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? when she discovered her great-grandfather was once accused of murder…

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

The Master Genealogist to be Discontinued

Sad news! The following announcement was made today by Bob Velke, the owner of Wholly Genes, Inc.: I am sad to report that the decision has been made to discontinue The Master Genealogist (“TMG”). While thousands of TMG users appreciate the program’s many powerful features that are unmatched in other software…

The Future of Second Site, a Program for Publishing Genealogy Data

Yesterday’s announcement that Wholly Genes Software would discontinue development and support of The Master Genealogist (TMG) has created all sorts of questions. Some of the questions concern the future of Second Site, a popular …

photo credit: thachabre via photopin cc

Using images to save transcription time and errors.

A good habit to get into for any genealogy researcher is using images to save transcription time and errors.

Transcription takes a lot of time. Rather than wasting the time manually transcribing documents while conducting research, or printing direct from a third party database site, I work with images instead. Once the source is created and the image saved and attached within the database, the image can be set aside for transcription later. Not only is this quicker, but it greatly reduced the chance of error, either on your part or the part of those working on the website.

using images to save transcription time and errors

Photoscape’s main editing screen – using images to save transcription time and errors.

As you’ll see if you check out this site to a greater degree, I routinely post transcriptions of old documents so those searching will be able to find them. They are always linked to the page with original image for reference and confirmation of the information in the transcription.

This is especially useful if working with documents or sites in a foreign language. Just snip, crop, edit and save an image of the desired item and you’re free to work with it at a later time when you may have the necessary translation tools. Also, having an image of the original document is invaluable for future reference.

I have received some criticism for the size of my database (over 100,000 individuals), stating there is no way I could be properly researching and have a database that large. The truth is, I do research thoroughly. I have thousands of images and documents that have not been input into my database as yet. Delaying this part allows me to concentrate on conducting my research with my paid Ancestry.com subscription and when the subscription lapses, I can then take time to work with the images and documents without wasting valuable research time on this site.

Windows Snipping Tool

Windows’ Snipping Tool

In the time it takes to transcribe one page of text, I can crop, download, adjust and attach several images. If you’re not used to the functions involved, expect to take a bit of time at first. Once you’re used to the software and this becomes a habit, you’ll be amazed at how quick you are.

Now, I know a lot of researchers use Evernote – and that’s great. I do too, but I find these little tips for handling images very helpful for all areas. It is not possible to select a specific area of a web page with Evernote. The snip and edit is a lot more flexible.

For a simple crop and save function, any ‘snip’ tool works.

On a Windows computer, it’s called simply ‘Snipping Tool’. That’s easy, isn’t it?

Grab Tool

The Mac’s ‘Grab’ tool.

On my Mac, I use ‘Grab’, their own snip tool.

Snip tools are particularly useful for capturing and saving all or portions of what one sees on the computer screen. Just be careful to not be violating copyright.

Once the selection is ‘snipped’ or ‘grabbed’, open your photo software and ‘paste as new’ or paste into another image and save.

There’s no need for special image editing software on a Mac as the ‘preview’ has some great built in editing tools.

My software of choice for complete image editing in Windows is Photoscape, which is available for free. This program allows more in depth editing than simple snipping tools. I use this to work with snipped images to adjust for maximum clarity and readability. Let’s face it, some of the images available do need help.

Be sure to try this and happy snipping!