These are the top ten articles that I wrote that were shared to other places, including Facebook and Twitter. I left out my Follow Friday posts as those are just compilations of other people’s links.
Over half of the shares were to Facebook. I’m surprised that Twitter was less than Google.
I’m pleased that one of my very first posts “How Eight Children Ended Up Living Along in 1930” is on the list. Finding that information about my grandmother was a significant genealogy moment for me. Also, the post which has a recently discovered picture of my Uncle Paul, sister and me.
It also appears that some of my articles on sourcing struck people as useful as well. I find it very encouraging that people care about sourcing. I’m not an expert by any means. But I do know that if I had started sourcing earlier in my genealogy career I would have been a happier camper.
We know that includes vital records, deeds, probate, tombstones and a wide variety of original and derivative sources. But in the age of the internet, what else does it include? How many sites should we look at? Random Google searches are not the answer I do believe, but are sites that we know to hold sometimes questionable research part of a exhaustive search?
A Southern Sleuth mentions in Treasured Find, how a SLIG instructor mentioned that “one of the instructors reminded our class of the value of checking online trees to determine what research may have been done by other individuals.” She continues to discuss how she has often rejected online trees because there is quite a bit of bad research or just complete fabrication in those trees, but she decided to add them to her list.
I have also stopped looking at online trees because sifting through them looking for nuggets is much like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
I also received a comment on this blog from a reader who didn’t have a lot of faith in Find A Grave because there is some bad information on the site. And indeed there is. There are plenty of memorials without any kind of documentation, even tombstones, and extra information is added without supporting documentation. This is a function of the site, it is not set up for supporting documentation other than photos.
This memorial of Mary Hartigan Cash, my ggg grandmother’s memorial on Find A Grave has information supported by the picture of the tombstone, which states her birth year, death date and that she was the wife of Ready Cash. 2
It also states that she and Ready had three children, Franklin, Mary E and Virginia, and there is no supporting documentation. This doesn’t mean the information is wrong, it is actually correct, although my gg grandmother, Martha Jane Cash is left out of the list.
So what is a good source? What is a bad source?
SOURCES provide INFORMATION from which we select EVIDENCE for ANALYSIS. A sound CONCLUSION may then be considered “PROOF.”
— Elizabeth Shown Mills 3
When the information is selected from the source, it’s validity depends on the informant and what their knowledge is of the event. The source itself is not good or bad. It is just a source. The question being asked determines if the information is evidence and analysis determines if the information is part of the proof. Conflicting evidence must be considered and explained.
Whoever supplied the information for Mary’s tombstone, not the Find A Grave memorial, probably had good knowledge of her death date, 29 Aug 1887. In fact, he or she may have been a primary informant if present at her death. But given that she was 87 years old when she died, it is doubtful that they were a witness to her birth, so that person was at best a secondary information.
As for the children of Ready and Mary, the person stating the information, most likely did not have direct knowledge of the children and their parents. However, the supporting documentation may be there, but we don’t know because it is not listed.
So what does all this mean? The Find A Grave memorial may or may not be good evidence, it depends on the question. There are four possible questions that pop to mind that be answered by this particular source:
When did Mary Hartigan Cash die?
Who was Mary’s husband?
When was Mary born?
Who were the children of Ready and Mary?
The quality of the evidence from the Find A Grave source depends on which question you are trying to answer. To do good quality genealogy you must do a exhaustive search. You may choose to reject the evidence because of who the informant is, other conflicting information, or lack of documentation. But you must examine all the sources available to you. And online trees and Find A Grave and other online sources hold both good and bad information that must be included in an exhaustive search.
1. Board for Certification of Genealogist, “The Genealogical Proof Standard,” BCGCertification.org (http: //www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standards.html : accessed 25 Aug 2012).
2. Find A Grave, Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 2 Aug 2012), memorial page for Mary Hartigan Cash, Find A Grave Memorial no. 41042042, citing Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia.
3. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3d ed., digital ed. (Baltimore, Maryland, Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 2012), 3.
I’ve probably been at this about 10 years, give or take, and I’ve been a lot more serious about it in the last couple of years. I made a vow to go back and review and fix all of my sources and I started with my paternal grandfather’s line. Slow work, but I am making progress.
I’m so glad I’ve done this. This is the first line I started working on, and my lack of experience and my willingness to jump to conclusion and accept them as fact is quite stunning.
Now, I will admit, that I’ve looked at many a microfilm, and gone back to it thinking that I hadn’t seen it only to find that I had. But this was not the case.
From reading the description, I expected to find the actual marriage bonds, and for the most part, the film seemed to be a typewritten index (for which I was very grateful) and a hand written register of all of the marriage bonds that they had seen. The register was recorded in chronological order, so the index, that was alphabetical was quite useful, as I decided to do a Surname survey for the name Gillespie.
I found 20 records most of which matched people in my tree.
The record for my great great grandparents Jeremiah Gillespie and Mary E Gillespie was there on page 408. 1
Jeremiah is listed as under age and his parent or guardian is Talton Gillaspie. (This is actually Tarlton who is his father.)
And the Security and Witnesses are listed as James Gillaspie, J Powell Jr, and Richd Waugh.
I do not know who these men are. I suspect that James is a relative. A cousin or an uncle. Jeremiah’s older sister Editha marries a Roderick Waugh 2, maybe Richard is related to Roderick.
I’ve also have in my tree that Jeremiah is born on March 4th, 1826.3 This information comes from my interpretation of a family bible that was handed down to me.
But if this date is true, then he would have been 22 on November 21, 1848, and he would not have been under the age he could be married without consent.
The dates in the bible appear to have been written in 1860. Jeremiah was married in 1848. It is hard to imagine that he would state that he was not 21 when he got married if he wasn’t. It would just complicate matters more. Given these two sources and what we know about when they were recorded and the legal situation implied by the marriage bond, I believe that he was not born in 1826. I would suggest 1828 and that he was twenty.
It is probably reasonable to think that his birthday was March 4th. And it is hard to imagine that whoever did the entries in the bible subtracted wrong, or just didn’t know.
So until I get better information, I’m going to assume that he was born in 1828 or later. Just because it was written in a bible doesn’t make it true. When it was written and by who are important. Sources are important!
And now that I’ve been cleaning up my sources and I’m about half done with this line, well, it is a lot faster to write a blog post. More to come on the marriage register.
1. Amherst County, Virginia, “Register of marriages, Amherst County, Virginia, 1763-1853,” index and images, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia, p. 408, entry for Jeremiah Gillaspie and Mary E Gillespie, bond date 21 Nov 1848; FHL microfilm 30273. Parents or Guardian of Husband: Talton Gillaspie; Security and Witnesses: James Gillaspie; J Powell Jr; Richd Waugh.
2. Amherst County, Virginia, “Register of marriages, Amherst County, Virginia, 1763-1853”, index and images, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia, p. 391, entry for Rodk Waugh and Editha Ann Gillaspie, bond date 28 Mar 1845; FHL microfilm 30273. Security and Witnesses: Taillor A Gillaspie (most likely Tarlton).
3. Gillespie Family Bibile, The Holy Bible, (New York, American Bible Society, 1857), “Family Records, Births”, p840; privately held by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California, 2012. The sons of Tarlton and Mahala Gillespie are listed with their birth dates; it appears that they were all written at one time and are date April 20 1860.
After 4 years at Ancestry.com I’m working at a different job and therefor not paying as much attention to my blogging the last few days. I’m now the product manager for Institutional and Library version of our product working with Kim Harrison. I’m super excited about learning how we can best serve libraries and other organizations who use our products to assist their patrons with genealogy research. It’s a different way to look at Ancestry.com and it has given me a new perspective on what we do.
When I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been working on cleaning up my sources. Well, I’ve also been watching the Olympics and cleaning up my sources. I really thought that this was going to be tedious, but not so. I’ve been working on them by source, and I’ve been noticing something when I’m done with a group, for instance 1840:
You can quickly tell who lived close and who did not, assuming of course that the records aren’t in semi alphabetical order, which should be in the source as well.
And by the time I get to 1850, I see families and their proximity to one another:
You just don’t see that in a family tree. You see who your ancestors are, but you don’t see them in proximity. This combined with Thomas MacEntee’s article: uencounter.me – A Way To Plot Cluster Genealogy Research makes me think what if I did genealogy for a week, and didn’t use a family tree. What might I learn?
But first I have to finish my sources. I am on a mission.
I am trying to pull my grandfather and his ancestor’s lives into order and tell their story. I find I have a mess of records. One big old honking mess. So I’m getting organized. And not just thinking about it. Or starting and stopping. (Yes, I’ve done that multiple times.) I’m doing it.
Prune the Tree. I use Family Tree Maker (yes, I’m a Ancestry.com employee, but I was using long before I joined the company.) I went to Export and selected my grandfather, his descendants.
I selected his ancestors and included all parents and all ancestor’s descendants for 1 generation.
Do I really need all of his 5th cousins 4 times removed husbands? I think not.
This is a copy, nothing is lost if I need to go back.
Sources. OK, it is time to clean up my sources. And is where I am now. I’m cleaning up duplicates. And removing all those horrid sources that you collect over the years. I opened my electronic of Evidence Explained (you must get yourself one!) and went to work. I’m about 30% of the way done I’d guess. Oh, and managed to delete about 50 1880 sources. I will recover I’m sure.
My 1850 sources are looking awesome!
One document per family. I’ve also have one document per family, and attach every one to that. Boy does the cut down on the chaos. AND when I make a mistake in sourcing (gasp!) I only have to correct it and re-correct it once.
Images for Indexes. You know when you merge in a Social Security Death Index, but you have no image. Well I make one. I have Snagit (I love it, but there are other reasonable solutions.) So let’s say I add my Great Aunt Eva’s SSDI. I go to the page, clip out the important stuff:
So if I’m working on someone and I don’t have access to the internet, I have everything I need.
I’m sort of excited to have a clean tree. Sourced correctly. And then the story telling will go much faster. I’ve often found it takes me as long to source a blog post as it does write it. This should really help.