30 April 2015

FamilySearch Update: North Dakota Census Records

The following databases are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch:

North Dakota, Census, 1915

North Dakota, Census 1925

How "new" this actually is, I can't say. I think that this database has been on the site for a while.

29 April 2015

FamilySearch Updates: Military Headstones, El Paso Aliens, GA Deaths, WW2 Draft Cards

The following databases are showing as updated or new on FamilySearch:

United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949

Texas, Manifests of Aliens Granted Temporary Admission at El Paso, ca. July 1924-1954

Georgia, Deaths, 1928-1939

United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

Organizing Genealogical Information Class-May 2015 Session-Updated!

Still time to join us---our first discussion isn't until 10 May!

By popular demand, we're bringing this course back....

Organizing Genealogical Information:
A Short Course
With Michael John Neill

(scroll down for specific schedule)
Organizing information is an important part of genealogical research—perhaps more important than the actual research. This short course (only 3 sessions) is intended to provide the students with exposure to a variety of ways to organize information with an emphasis on problem-solving. The course will consist of four lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade—you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their work and ideas with other students.

Citation of sources is important, but presentations will not focus on citation theory.

This time the course will be presented a little bit differently. Students will be able to download the lecture and view it at their convenience--ideally all on the same day that the download link is sent to registered students.

Students will have a week to view the presentation, discuss or ask questions on the bulletin board and submit optional homework before the class discussion via GotoWebinar. 

Course registration is only $30 for this run of the course. Class size is limited to 30 to encourage group interaction.
  • Assignment/Study 1Charts, Charts, and More Charts (we will discuss a variety of charts and table to organize your information and your searches—all students work on same problem
  • Assignment/Study 24 Step Research Process (we will discuss a four-step process to research organization)—pick your own problem
  • Assignment/Study 3— Constructing Families from pre-1850 Census (discuss of how to ascertain family structure from pre-1850 US census records)---all work on same problem
Register here

Lecture downloads (updated):
  • 3 May (or until day before class starts)
  • 11 May
  • 18 May
Discussions are at (updated):
  • 10 May 7:00-7:30 pm.Central Time
  • 17 May 7:00-7:30 pm. Central Time
  • 24 May  7:00-7:30 pm.Central Time

Indirect Marriage Date Evidence in a Homestead File

Homestead records can contain many clues. Like most records, the "best clues" are often the ones that are not blatantly stated. Such is the case with the homestead application for Harm A. Fecht.

In his "Final Proof" made out on 19 January 1895, Harm A. Fecht stated that he lived on his homestead with his wife and three children and that they have lived on the homestead continuously. The "Final Proof" often contains a variety of valuable genealogical information and is one of the documents in a homestead application file that genealogists often concentrate on. On the surface this statement seems pretty simple.

Fecht's initial affidavit is informative as well. Dated 1 March 1888, it indicated that he was a single man, "a widower," and a naturalized citizen of the United States. Had the complete homestead file not been read, this clue would have been missed. 

Fecht could easily have married and fathered three children between the affidavit date and the final proof date. If the statements made in the homestead records are correct, then Fecht married between the date of the affidavit and the final proof.

Hopefully there are local records of Fecht's marriage, but it's possible that they are no longer in existence. This document provides information directly stating that Fecht was married and indirect information regarding the range of dates during which Fecht married the wife to whom he was married in 1895.

The 1895 wife is obviously not his first wife.

Sometimes straight forward affidavits provide more clues than we think.

These image are from Ancestry.com's "Nebraska, Homestead, Records, 1861-1936"

28 April 2015

Who Is Pastor Klorkemeyer?

The "family register" entry for the family of Bernd (Bernard) Dirks from the St. Peter Lutheran Church in Coatsburg, Adams, Illinois, contains the baptismal information on Anna Margaretha Dirks, my great-great-grandmother. 

This image was located in the "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940at Ancestry.com.

This is the closest as I have gotten to a contemporary birth record for Anna. The birth and baptismal entries were all apparently written at the same time, probably some time after the church's founding--which was after all the Dirks children were born and baptized.

It's very possible some of the dates are incorrect as they were copied from other records.

However, it's still a good clue and, given there are no civil birth records in Illinois for this time period, it is as good as I may ever get. There's no reason to doubt the dates at this point.

What I'm curious about is the pastor who baptized Anna--his last name appears to have been Klorkemeyer or some variant. The letter in front of "Klorkemeyer" appears to be a "P," referring to pastor. The other references contain the same letter and it's doubtful each pastor's first name began with a "P."

Pastor Klorkemeyer most likely lived near where the Dirks family did. Other children were baptized in Keokuk Junction (now known as Golden), Illinois and other were baptized in Pea Ridge in Brown County. Both villages had German immigrant communities and Lutheran churches. Those are probably the best place to begin my search for Pastor Klorkemeyer. The family likely didn't have to travel too far to get to the church where Klorkemeyer was serving.

The problem may be determining what the actual spelling of his name actually was.

27 April 2015

Why We Point Out Errors

Occasionally I get called to task in private emails for pointing out difficulties with databases and websites.

The responses usually fall into one of two categories:

  • "Indexes are created by humans"
  • "We should be glad to have anything."
And I'm also told that I just "shouldn't worry about it." That comment bothers me on so many levels that I won't discuss it any further. 

I'm well aware that indexes can contain errors. Having created indexes myself many years ago and having transcribed my share of records, I know how easy it is for the most well-intentioned and conscientious of researchers to overlook the occasional error. Index creators are human and as such, they are prone to make mistakes. 

"Being glad to have anything" I understand in theory, but I have difficulty with in practice as sometimes it is used as an excuse to justify shoddy or incomplete work. 

 Those two comments really miss the mark of why we talk about difficulties with indexes and finding aids on this blog: indexes and finding aids are tools.

And tools must be used appropriately.

A hammer should not be used to put in a drywall screw and a screwdriver should not be used to hammer in nail. Sure, in a pinch they would do. But they are not the best tools for the job. 

Indexes and finding aids are tools. Knowing their limitations and their quirks allow researchers to know when to use them, when not to use them, and to use them more effectively.

That's why we point out their pitfalls and limitations. 

And, for the record, I've never had one company tell me to "stop writing." I have had behind the scenes emails from them when things weren't working the way they should.

Writing about the pitfalls of indexes and databases helps users make more effective use of those indexes and databases. And on some level, in addition to new and continued subscribers, that's what database providers want. 

25 April 2015

The Preacher's Confused, She's Foresaken, and Church Records Are Not Gospel

Sometimes ministers have a way of laying things on the line and sometimes they are just a little too blunt.

This 1914 entry from the funeral portion of the church register of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Coatsburg mentions my aunt and includes a little commentary from the minister as well. In addition to listing her date of birth and death, he indicated that she "died childless and foresaken by husband..."

The minister was apparently so concerned about Sophia being childless and "foresaken" that he got her names mixed up. She was Mrs. Sophia Driesback nee Dirks, not Sophia Dirks nee Driesback. Church records can be just as incorrect as any other record.

This image came from Ancestry.com's "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940"

What Ancestry.com Did Not Index in the ELCA Records

Ancestry.com recently released their version of a dataabase called "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940." 

There are pitfalls to this collection of which users should be aware:
  • Not every ELCA church is included.
  • Not all the records of every church were microfilmed.
  • Some church records are incomplete.
  • The index at Ancestry.com is not complete and tends to concentrate on baptismal, marriage, and funeral entries. 
The images included in this post come from the "family register" at the Lutheran church in Coatsburg, Adams County, Illinois. Not all churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America database at Ancestry.com inclde records like these, but researchers should determine that for themselves. 

Finding this record requires a manual browse of the records, which can be done most easily by using the collection browse option on the right hand side of the search screen for these records at Ancestry.com.  These are a wonderful set of records.

This "family register" for Bernd Dirks lists his wife and children along with their dates of birth, baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death. 

In this case, the entry was particularly helpful as there was no Lutheran church in the town where the Dirks family lived until the 1870s and I had not located the baptismal information for the children. 

This record is the "most contemporary" source of birth information that I have for the children of Bernard and Heipke Dirks as civil records of birth in Illinois do not start until the late 1870s. 

Had I not browsed the images manually, I never would have located this wonderful record.

These items are on the Ancestry.com site at "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940"

Using Iowa GAR Membership Records at FamilySearch

FamilySearch recently updated their GAR membership records for Iowa.

These records are unindexed and organized by GAR post. The microfilm (and digital images) are organized by county, and then by post. There is an "index" that appears in the county listing (there is one post, called "nulla" which then takes you to the actual "index."

That "index" tells you what post numbers are within what county, organized by counties. There are then two lists of posts sorted numerically on this "nulla" roll:

  • A post listing--which starts at image 7
  • Posts of the Permanent Iowa Department-which starts at image 21
If you know the county of residence, you will have to search all the posts within that county. The cards are sorted alphabetically within the post. 

In my case, I knew the county of residence and had the GAR post number from a biography. 

The cards for David Aquilla Newman provided information on his military career and his personal life. 

David's entry was atypical in that it also contained a newspaper obituary for him clipped from an unknown paper. A quick look at other entries did not locate many that had supplemental information of this type.
Undated and unsourced apparent obituary for David Aquille[sic] Newman
appearing in his GAR membership record file
for Iowa GAR members.
 My citation for the apparent obituary of David needs to indicate that it was located in his GAR membership record and that the actual date and place of publication is unknown.

Of course the information on the GAR membership card needs to be validated with other records, particularly David's service record and other military materials. There's nothing to suggest that the information on the card is wrong, just that errors can easily be made.

Note: There is a PDF file with information on Iowa GAR posts on this site from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (thanks to Keith R. for pointing this file out to me).

23 April 2015

RIP: Constance "Connie" (Ufkes) Neill, 1942-2015

After a nearly three year struggle with cancer, my mother passed away on 21 April 2015.

Mom was always kidding me that she was "afraid" to talk to me for fear that I would write about whatever it was she said or that it would become fodder for some blog post. It got to be a running joke. .

I was fortunate that I was able to be at the nursing home with her much of the week before she died in what ended up turning into one long sleepover. When she was still able to communicate, we talked quite a bit about a variety of things. Often, I could only understand about a third of what she said and she was never frustrated with me when I would tell her "Mom, I'm not trying to irritate you, but I can only understand about a third of what you are saying." She would smile and say "I know," and we'd try again. She was never impatient with me and never complained and was rolling her eyes at me until the last days. Fortunately I know that she was able to hear me during this time.

Mom always encouraged my genealogy research and she'd listen patiently to about any story that I would tell of a discovery that I had made. She was always proud of her 100% Ostfriesen heritage and would "ignore me" when I would tell her that somewhere in her background I thought there was a Frenchman from the 1600s...telling me "that didn't count and she wasn't going listen."

The staff of the nursing home in Mendon, Illinois, where Mom spent about the last month of her life told me how much Mom had communicated to them that she thought the world of her family--her husband, two boys and two granddaughters. The staff of the nursing home were very gracious, supportive, and kind as we took this final journey with her and I'll be forever grateful for that. We also received support from a variety of relatives, friends, both in real time and online. I am appreciative for that as well.

Mom lived all her life in Hancock County, Illinois--well the vast majority of it. Growing up on a farm north of Ferris, she lived in Macomb while attending Western Illinois University and lived in Carthage with her grandmother until she married my father and moved to a farm north of Carthage. 

Mom was acutely aware of how blessed and fortunate she was. One of the things she told me in those final days was that we were "lucky ducks," and we certainly were. 

I know I was a "lucky duck" to have her for a Mother.

Rest in Peace, Mom.


The obituary for Constance "Connie" Janet (Ufkes) Neill can be viewed here

16 April 2015

My Grandfather Owned that Farm

Land records can contain a variety of information.

This affidavit from 1942 discusses three generations of land ownership in the Rampley family of Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois. 

It was located using the tract index to land records that the Hancock County Recorder's Office has--that index locates records geographically based up on the quartersection in which the property being referenced is located.

That's how this item was found. 

But there are a few lessons with this document.

Records may be created or recorded decades after the person of interest died.  James Rampley (the grandfather) is the ancestor in this case. James the affiant and grandson of James the ancestor is a an actual cousin of mine. This document was recorded nearly sixty years after James the grandfather died and could have easily been overlooked if I had only used records created during James the ancestor's lifetime. Genealogists don't always think to research land records quite this far after someone dies.

Items recorded with land records may not be actual "deeds." This affidavit was created to assist in clearly up some title issues to the property referenced in the deed. Like many records, it doesn't precisely state what precipitated its creation. That was determined by looking at other records and creating a time line--and by using a little logic and reasoning.

Cook County Birth Certificates Updated At FamilySearch

I can't guarantee how "updated" is it, but this database is showing as updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1938

Database only--no image links.

15 April 2015

A Short Hiatus

We've not left the blogging world, but are taking a short hiatus. We'll post FamilySearch updates if there are any, but that will be it for a short while. We'll be back...stay tuned.

12 April 2015

Dixies in Bear Creek

Would you guess that line 4 on this 1880 agricultural census enueration was indexed as "Dixie G.?"(with last name unknown).

That first name looks like Felix to me.

And I'd be willing to wager that the middle initial is a "J."

The last name is a little more questionable,but I'd interpret it as something close to Vergave.

But Dixie? Sometimes it is easy to see "incorrect" interpretations of names even if we would not make them ourselves. But "Dixie" I'm having difficulty seeing. And Dixie is not high on my list of variations of Felix.

And in reviewing index entries for this enumeration--particularly those in Hancock and Adams Counties in Illinois, many had no last name entered. For those of us who use "exact" matches and use something in the last name box, this is a problem as entries with no last name will not be returned.

Takeways from this enumeration:

  • first names can be read incorrectly
  • illegible names will be omitted from indexes and if you put a last name in the search box, matches without last names may not be returned as hits.

He's Not In the Agricultural Census, But His Farm Is

While working on something totally unrelated, I realized that I did not have the 1880 agricultural census schedule for my ancestor, John H. Ufkes, on his farm in Hancock County, Illinois.The farm is still owned by a relative and is farmed by my father and brother and I was interested in seeing what was said about its operation in 1880.

I conducted two searches of the Ancestry.com database that includes the 1880 agricultural census (Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880") before I remembered:
John and Noentje Ufkes purchased the farm in Hancock County 1881.
They are not going to be enumerated in the 1880 agricultural census in Hancock County.

But their farm should be listed under the name of the previous owner, Henry Schuster.

However locating the farm in the 1880 schedule is not as simple as finding Henry Schuster and concluding I have the right place. There are some items to consider.

Henry might not have owned the farm at the time of the agricultural census in 1880. Property deeds would confirm the date he acquired the property.

Henry might have owned additional property in the township in 1880. All of his real estate would be lumped together in his 1880 agricultural census enumeration. If I think I've found him in the 1880 enumeration, I should compare the acreage listed on the enumeration with the acreage of the property as stated on the deed. Real property tax records for the township would also confirm how much property Henry owned in Bear Creek Township, where the farm is located.

I can find the Ufkes farm in the 1880 agricultural census, even though my ancestor didn't own it in 1880. It will just take a little work-and even if I locate it, separating out what later became the Ufkes farm from the rest of the previous owner's landholdings may be impossible-at least in the enumeration.

10 April 2015

My Two Missing Guys In 1870

I have two ancestors that I cannot find in 1870: John Ufkes and Ira Sargent.

Both men were single in 1870, under thirty-five, had never been married, and had no children. Ufkes probably lived in the general area of Hancock County, Illinois, and Sargent probably in the area of Union County, Iowa. Both were likely working as hired men or laborers of some sort. That's part of the problem--they were unattached and had relatively mobile occupations.

But the question remains: "When have I looked enough?" At what point do I decide the time searching is not time well spent and is time I could devote to other research activities?

It is a question that does not have a hard and fast answer and really depends upon the individual in question. It also depends upon my personal research philosophy.

Ufkes is well documented and has been located in a variety of records in the United States. He's generated and left behind virtually every record a German immigrant farmer who lives in the United States from 1869-1924 should leave--except for his 1870 census enumeration. His place of birth in Germany is known, as are the names of his siblings, parents, and extended family. I've conducted a reasonable search for him in 1870 and don't think the enumeration of him will probably alter the life chronology and portrait I already have for him. It would be personally satisfying to find him, but it's not likely that the enumeration will provide me with an entirely new avenue of research on Ufkes (possible, yes--probable, no). Because of that, I have stopped looking for him 1870. Would I like to know where he is? Yes. Is it worth manually searching three states to potentially locate him? Probably not.

Sargent is not as well documented and comes from a hazier background than does Ufkes. Sargent's family was moving around Iowa and Missouri in the 1860s. His parents names are known, but not much is known about his mother's family. He marries in Union County, Iowa, in October of 1870, so it seems reasonable that he's there at the time of the census, although it is possible that he is not. Most of Ira's siblings have been located in 1870 (he's not with or near them) and it's possible that he's living with one of those who cannot be located. Ira's 1870 enumeration has a greater chance of assisting me with my research on him than Ufkes' does. If Ira could be located, his residence could provide another location in which to conduct a general record search.

Both men were probably working as hired men or laborers in 1870, perhaps living with a family and enumerated with that family's last name. They could have been in between residences at the time of the census and simply not enumerated. As unattached men, they simply could have been missed by the census enumerator.

Sometimes I occasionally look for Sargent--just to see if I overlooked something.

While I like to determine as much about each ancestor as possible, there comes a time when one has to admit that there may be other ways to spend your genealogical time.

After all, there are other ancestors whose stories are just begging to be researched as well.

07 April 2015

Indirectly I'm In First Families of Ohio

It is the only lineage society to which I belong.

Years ago, when I was still pretty much a kid, I realized that one of my ancestors qualified me for membership in First Families of Ohio. At least I thought I did. Membership in the organization is limited to those who have a descent from an ancestor who lived in Ohio before December of 1820.

A county history from 1881 said that my family moved to Coshocton County, Ohio in the Fall of 1817. I thought that would be my "proof." A county history should be reliable.

It wasn't good enough. I'm pretty certain county histories were on the list of "unacceptable" items. It was one of my first lessons in what was acceptable and what was not.

This was in the mid-1980s. There was no internet where I could start performing searches in an attempt to solve my problem. I was going to have to rely on what I could access via the mail. I was also going to have to rely on what I already knew how to use. That limited me.

Thomas did not appear as buying any property in Coshocton County before 1820, so that was not an option. Even if he had purchased property there, a case could be made that he might have been a non-resident landowner.

Thomas was also not on the 1820 Ohio census. That would have been too easy.

To make a long story short, my proof that Thomas was in Ohio before December of 1820 rested in Maryland.

Thomas was sued in Harford County, Maryland because of errors in the legal description of a piece of property he sold. In that court case, he makes a deposition wherein he says that he left Maryland for Coshocton County, Ohio, and that he returned to Maryland from Ohio after his father's death to settle up some affairs. He made it clear that he moved to Ohio before his father died.

The will of James Rampley was admitted to probate in Harford County, Maryland in 1817, sometime after his death.

There was my "proof" that Thomas was in Ohio before December of 1820--but it took several documents to establish that fact.

One of the first times I used indirect evidence. It's indirect because there's not one document that says "Thomas was in Ohio by 1817." Together several documents lead to that conclusion.

04 April 2015

All You Need Is Spit and the Biggest Advance Since the Shaking Leaf?

I'm a little behind on my reading and since Ancestry.com doesn't send me press releases any more, I just came across the "DNA press release" from Ancestry.com. There is significant opinion in this post. Significant opinion. Other blogs may tell you they give you opinion when they really don't. That's not how we operate here. You have been warned.

(c) 2015 Michael John Neill
although I doubt anyone will
steal this tree
According to a press release from Ancestry.com, they've made the biggest advance since the "shaking [Ancestry.com] leaf."

I nearly choked on my spinach salad. That's about as close as I get to any shaking leaf.

Biggest Advance Since the Shaking Leaf?

I'm not even certain that the shaking leaf qualify as an advance to begin with. The "shaking leaves" on Ancestry.com and the hints on their site are based on some sort of mysterious fuzzy search parameters and the suggestions of other researchers. It's hard to know where their search parameters end and the suggestions of other researchers begin. The hint "match" algorithm is apparently a closely guarded state-level secret. We've seen in other posts on this site that those hints are not all that reliable and often miss the mark by centuries. It's difficult for this researcher to take seriously any announcement that uses the "shaking leaves" and "hints" as a starting baseline for improvement. That's setting the starting bar pretty low.

The shaking leaves apparently don't make genealogical research easy enough for the the powers-at-be at Ancestry.com. According to the press release, genealogists can now "find ancestors from their past using just a DNA test, [with] no genealogy research required." That's a direct quote: "no genealogy research required."

Yes...the word "no" is leading that phrase.

All you need is spit.

Ancestry.com's innovation comes from three places (quoting their press release)--with my comments in italics:

  • "1) millions of family trees created by Ancestry members [with varying levels of documentation and frequently of questionable accuracy],
  • "2) the fastest growing genetic database in the world, currently with more than 800,000 genotyped members [again relying upon the accuracy of ancestral information submitted by members] and
  • "3) a dedicated team of scientists who are pushing the boundaries of genetics and statistics to help people make family history discoveries in ways never before possible.”[I can't speak to the genetics, but the statistical algorithms used to create "hints" and "shaking leaves" clearly leaves something to be desired]."

Taking millions of user-submitted trees, some created willy-nilly, as a starting point upon which to base research conclusions, seems a little misguided to this researcher. Genealogy methodology experts generally suggest using the trees for clues and not simply incorporating the online trees into the user's own database. Ancestry.com seems to suggest that researchers can just reach the nearest tree within spitting distance and claim it as their own.

The phrase "no genealogy research required" makes this researcher cringe. Cringe. And that's the nice, family-friendly blog version of a phrase that feels much more appropriate. I realize the importance of encouraging new people to research their family history. But there's a key word in that sentence: research. And there needs to be balance when trying to convert new members to the family history fold.

I'm not naive enough to think that every newly-minted genealogist is going to run out and cite every sources in way that would put Evidence Explained to shame. But even newbie genealogists know they need to do some research. The thought of encouraging new family historians to simply scratch their cheek and look in their no longer shaking tea leaves to find their ancestry has taken "encouragement" to a new level. Enticing people to learn about their family history is one thing. Promoting the belief that research is as easy as spitting is something else.

Bring GIGO Back! 

Years ago, there was a phrase in data processing: GIGO--Garbage In, Garbage Out. As we've left behind the phrase "data processing" for the sexier "information technology" and "crowdsourcing," some seem to have forgotten GIGO.

I haven't and you shouldn't either.

All this crossed my desk just as I was about to dip my toe in the sea of AncestryDNA. It's enough to make me head away from the beach, put on long pants and real shoes and leave the ocean in the distance. DNA has it's place in genealogy research and can be used to answer a variety of family history questions. But the use of DNA is a slightly more involved than Ancestry.com would have us to believe.

Thanks for reading--and remember: 
All of us have ancestors who deserve to have their lives documented as accurately as we can. And that takes time--a life cannot be researched in five minutes.

I was really tempted to subtitle this post based on two pop tunes:
  • It's not "All you need is love," but "all you need is spit."
  • It's not "No jacket required," but "no research required."
Reminder: I am an Ancestry.com subscriber and make regular use of their indexes and digital images. I am entirely content to limit my Ancestry.com time to that portion of their site.

My Event and Summaries Announcement List

I am moving blog summary updates, webinar announcements, and similar content to a separate email list at Constant Contact. There is no charge to be on the list and it is completely separate from this blog. To be added to the announcement list, visit our sign in page here.

02 April 2015

Assuming Negative Lessons from a Photograph

1930-1931 Basco, Illinois High School Basketball Team,
Scan made 2000 from photo in possession of
Michael John Neill taken from collection of
John H. and Dorothy A. Ufkes
I wrote briefly about this photo in 2010 ("Basco Basketball Team 1930-1931").

Five years later, a correspondent located someone who was able to identify the individuals in the photograph.

That's lesson 1: answers take time.

The picture was in the personal effects of my grandfather, John H. Ufkes (1917-2003) and I assumed he was in the picture. He wasn't.

That's lesson 2: assumptions are not always right and people can have pictures in which they are not shown.

My grandfather may still have been on the 1930-1931 Basco High School basketball team. His absence from the picture does not mean he was not on the team. His absence from the picture means he was not in the picture. He could simply have been absent the day the picture was taken.

That's lesson 3: think about what sources say and what they do not say.

Genealogists sometimes use the phrase "negative evidence." This picture does not present any negative evidence in the sense in which that phrase is typically used in the genealogical literature.

We'll save a discussion of negative evidence for a future post.


For those with an interest in this picture: I do have a higher quality scan of it with the identified names (and the identifier) listed. Email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com if you have an interest in the picture.

01 April 2015

FamilySearch Update: Tennessee Death Records

The following database is showing as new or updated on FamilySearch  since our last posting:

Tennessee, Death Records, 1914-1955

More on Statements and Looking at the Whole and the Parts

I realized I wrote about "statements" before ("Statements, Genealogical Statements, and Definitions").  [In looking at that blog post now a year later I see a few minor grammar errors--so please forgive me for those until I have time to go back and edit.]

The reason I feel that there needs to be some sort of definition for a "genealogical statement" comes down to the analysis. I understand that information is primary or secondary depending upon the person's perceived knowledge of the event. It is the quantity of information contained in one document that is the problem. Not every piece of that information in that document is created equally.

A death certificate is the best example of the variation that can exist in one document. The informant on a death certificate may provide information on the parents of the deceased, the date of birth for the deceased, and the death date of the deceased. The analysis needs be done partially in the aggregate so that the researcher can tell how generally reliable the informant is--keeping in mind that an honest person can give incorrect answers if they've been lead to believe an incorrect fact their whole lives. That information provided also needs to be analyzed as separate pieces as that informant is providing primary information in some cases and secondary information in others. 

Look at the information as a whole to see how generally reliable the person is. Look at the information piece by piece to see how likely the informant was to know that one specific piece of information.

It's a mistake to lump all that information the informant provided in one analytical pot. A child providing information on their parent's death certificate is not a primary informant for the names of the parents or the places of birth for the parents. The child would be a primary informant (at least probably) for when and where the deceased person died. 

That's why I think it's good to ferret out each "genealogical statement" from the document, so that each statement can be analyzed on it's own perceived merits based upon the informant and their likely knowledge of the specific event. 

But it's also good to look at the overall reliability of the informant--keeping in mind that they may simply be repeating information someone told them decades ago that they have no reason to doubt.

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