28 June 2007

Is DNA that big of a deal?

For most genealogical problems, how helpful is DNA actually? In my opinion, not very. While I admit there are times where DNA analysis can be helpful, in the vast majority of cases DNA does not provide the type of relationship precision we need. Knowing that two people are related "somehow" "somewhere" "an unknown number of generations back" is typically not the kind of information genealogists need.

And I don't need to know where my ancestors were from 100,000 years ago. How that helps me with 18th century research is beyond me. Frankly, I'm tired of all the hype.

Instead of money and effort devoted to DNA genealogy research, we need to be concentrating on digitizing and permanently preserving the unmicrofilmed records of NARA and many county courthouses. Those records tell us stories that DNA never will be able to.

Those are the stories I want to hear. That is what I want to learn.
I do not give one iota about where my ancestors were 100,000 years ago.

27 June 2007

"Genealogy is Bunk" is Bunk

Yes, the phrase "is Bunk" appears twice in the title to this post.

I was going to write a long response on my blog to the Richard Conniff article in the Smithsonian magazine titled "Genealogy is Bunk."

I decided not to waste my time. Conniff focuses (like much of the American media) on the rich and famous and their "connections." The misuse of genealogy in the past somehow proves it is "bunk." Of course, genealogy is the only study or pursuit to have been miused and abused in the past. Other disciplines are above such behavior and beyond reproach. Yeah, right--get me the bucket.

There are certainly genealogists whose research is questionable, focusing only on how many names they have and how many famous people to whom they relate. Genealogy is not alone to have these individuals in their midst. There are lawyers only chase ambulances and doctors who write fraudulent prescriptions. Let's be done with it and say the practice of law and medicine are bunk as well.

Serious genealogists are not concerned about extending pedigrees thousands of years. They are more concerned with the more recent past. Frankly I have NO interest in what a DNA study tells me about my ancestry 5,000 years ago. I'm more interested in much more modern times. Times when there are records and sources to provide us a glimpse into our relatives' lives.

I realize the attitude of the Conniff article irritates some genealogists. I'm not certain it irritates me or not.

Conniff was apparently irritated his teenaged daughter was spending time on a genealogy site. Get real. All parents of teenagers would be blessed to have such a problem--whether the parent gave one whit about genealogy or not.

21 June 2007

Keeping Track of HOW you Got it

Tracking your research (the title of the book, page, publication date, publisher, etc.) has always been an integral part of research. However, sometimes there is more to it than that.

While reviewing digital files I saved to my flashdrive while in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library, I realized that I had the book title and page number, etc. What I don't have is the database that allowed me to search that book in the first place. Many scans of older books are parts of larger digital collections. What I did not track was the digital collection that contained scanned images (and searchable text) of the book. This would have been extremely helpful for when I want to search those books for names that were not searched for originally.

Lesson learned.

20 June 2007

Revolutionary Pensions on Footnote

Footnote.com is increasing their amount of Revolutionary Pensions on their site.

The image on the right comes from the pension of Samuel Rhodes. This 1810s era document indicates the amount of property Samuel had in an attempt to document financial need. Samuel's complete pension file (not shown here) documents his service in Virginia as well as his migration into Tennessee and Missouri.

Footnote has not completed adding the pensions for the Revolution, but they are in progress and this pension was not on the site when I looked several weeks ago.

Consider adding Footnote.com to your genealogical arsenal.

19 June 2007

Cleaning Out my Bookshelf

I am culling duplicate materials from my bookshelves and am offering the following for sale via PayPal to anyone who is interested.

Kentucky Ancestry, Roseann Reinemuth Hogan, 1992, Ancestry
US Military Records, James C. Neagles, 1994, Ancestry
The Source, 3rd Edition, Ancestry
Professional Genealogy, 1st Edition, Genealogical Publishing Company.

Email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com letting me know what volume you are interested in.

14 June 2007

Still Room in Dearborn, Michigan workshops

Just in case anyone was on the fence, we still have room in our
Genealogy Computer workshops in Dearborn, Michigan next week,
Thursday-Saturday. One day is Using Ancestry, one day is Using
Genline and the last day is Preserving and Publishing Your
Information. For more information check out our wepage at:



Maps in the American Memory Collection at Library of Congress

One of the genealogists' most useful of tools are maps. Many are only available in print form on paper. However, a number of railroad (and other) maps have been digitized and are available online via the American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress.

These maps are high quality scans and may contain place names and spelligns not indicated elsewhere.
The 1855 map on the left shows where I live (ok, my town was not formed yet, but I live in some of the "blank" space). Those familiar with the area know that "Galvy" is actually Galva and I never knew Altona (handwritten in no less) was known as Walnut.
This map is "D.B. Cooke & Co's railway guide for Illinois shewing all the stations with their respective distances connecting with Chicago" and was published in 1855. There are many ways to browse the Railroad Maps Collection, but I prefer geographically. If you have not given these maps a try, I would definitely encourage you to do so.

A Look at Cook

Those with Cook County, Illinois, ancestors will really get some use out of this website. A Look at Cook contains census enumeration maps and other ward maps for the City of Chicago from the 1870 through 1930 time period. The site is free to use and very helpful in determining what enumeration district your ancestor should have been in for a particular census.

I've made extensive use of it while working on my wife's Chicago area families between 1870 and 1935.

The website is easy to remember: www.alookatcook.com


12 June 2007

Why writing is a good thing

Writing about your genealogy is usually an excellent idea. The reasons are numerous, but putting your research together so someone else understands it forces you to organize and revisit what you have already done. It also helps to point out omissions in our research.

While working on an article about ages, dates of birth, and dates of records, I realized I had never located two relatives in the 1870 census:

  • James Rampley, born 1844 in Ohio, living in Adams or Hancock Counties in Illinois
  • Sophia Trautvetter, born 1808 in Germany, probably living in Walker or Rocky Run Townships in Illinois.

They should not be too difficult to find and the difficulty is not really the issue. Research logs and research charts can help us find omissions in our research and we should use them. Writing about our research and our problems also can help us realize these oversights and they can also more importantly help us see gaps in our methods and our logic.

06 June 2007

Names may be more common than you think

Remember that names you think are not common may be.

For years, I thought I had found the immigration of my wife's Elizabeth Schulmeyer who came to Davenport, Iowa, in the early 1850s. I had a manifest entry with her name, the known name of her father, and others I assumed to Elizabeth's siblings. The ages were a pretty close fit---I had to have the right person.


When I searched the Beberstedt, Germany records for Elizabeth Schulmeyer, I found her with her parents Andreas and Brigett Schilling Schollmeyer. The problem was as I went through the column for names of parents I realized. There was another Andreas Schollmeyer having children at the same time....only with a different wife. It appeared that there were two contemporaries with the same name--likely cousins. Further research indicated when the correct Andreas Schollmeyer immigrated.

Names may be more common than you think.

The were Schollmyeyer names on virtually every page of the parish register....not as unusual a name as I thought.

Using Genealogy Bank at the Allen County Public Library

Sometimes genealogists forget that libraries may subscribe to online services that could be helpful to them in their own research.

While leading a recent trip to the Allen County Public Library, I had some time to experiment with Genealogybank.com--which the library provides to onsite patrons in their facility. The historical books, newspapers, and documents indexed here are a treasure trove of information. Genealogybank.com is also a subscription that individuals can obtain privately for use in their own home, with a variety of subscription plans. Its concentration is on materials that were originally created in print format and nicely augments other subscription databases that focus on federal records.

I located a early twentieth century article on a cousin detailing his 20,000 mile trek around North America, eluding police officials until his capture in Boston in the early 1900s. Locating this article would have been impossible with out the OCR search capabilities offered on Genealogybank.com. This relative will be mentioned in future blog posts and articles as I learn more about his escape from police officers and his involvement in Cuban stamp fraud (among other things).

Backing up your flash drive

I absolutely love my flash drive. It allows me to easily store large amounts of data and bring files with me while travelling that I would not bring if I had to have on paper. It also allows me to create digital images while travelling that can then be brought home.

There are two problems with it.

I tend to leave it everywhere. I probably forgot it at least 6 times while travelling over the past two week.

The other thing is that one needs to back up the data on the flash drive as soon as one returns home. That I did. I would hate to lose all that information and all those images. So....don't let your flash drive "copy" of file or a record be your "only" copy. The risk of losing it is too great.

01 June 2007

Can You Read It?

This is an entry from an 1841 census entry in County Cumberland England.
Any thoughts on what it actually is supposed to be?

Can You Read It?

This comes from the "father's name" column in a mid-nineteenth century Catholic Church christening register in Beberstedt, Germany.
Do you think you know what it is?

Can You Read It?

This comes from an estate receipt in Illinois in the 1870s. This German native was probably in her thirties at the time she signed this receipt.
Can you read it?

Who Is It?

This signature comes from an 1870s era will and is written by a German native born in the 1820s.
Can you read it?

Searching Annotations on Footnote

One of the neat things about the images on Footnote.com is the ability to search the annotations that others have made to documents. This was particularly helpful as shown in the image on the right. When annotations are created, they are linked to a portion of the graphic. The lines were left in the picture here.

My search for John Demoss resulted in this hit, which was not even for his pension, but rather was in a pension in which he provided testimony. Hopefully as images are added along with eventual annotations, I'll locate even more references in these and other documents.

Visit Footnote.com to learn more about what records it has to offer the genealogist and family historian.

If you are using the Revolutionary Pension records, please note that Footnote.com indicates they are currently in the process of completing this upload to their site.

Who is it?

This signature comes from a mid-nineteenth century will written in Illinois by a German immigrant born in the 1790s.
Go ahead and post a guess.

At the Allen County Public Library

We are half-way through our 8th annual research trip to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Our attendees are hopefully finding things (there's never a guarantee) and we are answering questions as we get them and directing them to sources that hopefully will help.

This is my first time in the completely remodeled library. The new facilities are greatly expanded and the completely open stacks are wonderful. The library has many more new computer terminals and the expanded facilities make researching much easier than in the past. For those who are not aware, the Allen County Public Library has one of the largest genealogical collections in the United States (more information can be found on the library's genealogy home page).

We have even tentatively set our dates for next year's trip as 28 May through 1 June. If you weren't able to join us next year, mark your calendars and check out our trip webpage which will have updated information in the near future.