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Don’t Lose Track of Your Digital Records – Give Them Distinctive Names

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Our world is becoming increasingly filled with digital files.  Documents, photos, videos, receipts, and so on – all digital.  For genealogists, it’s even worse.  We INTENTIONALLY look for as many documents as we can find about our family members.  Our file collections are massive.

Back in the good old days we had vast paper filing systems.  Some of us used binders, some file boxes or cabinets, and most of us used both.  Even diligent genealogists who have collections of paper files struggle to convert all of those files to digital formats.  It all takes time.  And time is precious.

Amy Johnson Crow recently published a post that includes an interview with Drew Smith.  They tackle the very important topic of organizing digital files.  The interview is a brief 7:43, but worth your time.

As I watched, I felt pretty good about my own system for naming files.  It is right inline with the things Drew talked about.  So I thought I would share my simple digital file naming system.  It looks a little something like this:

SURNAME, Forename Middle-name, YEAR Event Name

 

Pretty straightforward.  And so far, no two filenames have been identical in my digital files.  Let’s look at three examples.

SMELLIE, Agnes, 1909 Death Record

This is a Scottish death record.  There are three entries on the page.  The entry for my family member is the first entry on line 16 for Agnes Montgomery.  Agnes’ maiden name is Smellie, I always use the maiden surname, so my file name looks like this:

SMELLIE, Agnes, 1909 Death Record

 

HYDE, Muriel Grace and Walter E Groome, 1924 Marriage Certificate

This marriage record is for Muriel Grace Hyde and Walter E Groome.  Muriel is my blood relative so she takes the first place in my file name.  I only capitalize the surname of the person who is a blood relative.  So my filename looks like this:

HYDE, Muriel Grace and Walter E Groome, 1924 Marriage Certificate

 

Every now and again I am related to both parties in a marriage like in this example:

PROULX, Joseph and DEMERS, Anne Marie, 1919 Marriage Record, page 1PROULX, Joseph and DEMERS, Anne Marie, 1919 Marriage Record, page 2

This record is in French and split over two pages.  On the first page, the marriage entry begins on the bottom right and continues onto the next page.  Joseph Proulx is my 1st cousin 3 times removed and his wife Anne Marie Demers is my 2nd cousin 3 times removed and my 1st cousin 3 times removed.  I am related to both Anne Marie’s mother and father.  {And if you are wondering, Joseph and Anne Marie are second cousins to each other.}  Because I am related to both Joseph and Anne Marie, my two filenames look like this:

PROULX, Joseph and DEMERS, Anne Marie, 1919 Marriage Record, page 1

PROULX, Joseph and DEMERS, Anne Marie, 1919 Marriage Record, page 2

 

Using this file naming system works well for me.  I can easily find a file I am looking for just by typing in the surname.  If it’s a surname that is common to my tree, I type the surname, then a comma, then begin typing the forename until I see the file I need.

I may have a great file naming system that works for me, but organizing those files is another matter.  I haven’t had the need for folders so I haven’t created any.  They all go into one large “Genealogy Record Images” folder on my computer and external hard drive.  My back up is that I upload every file to my private ancestry tree and attach it to the correct individuals.  In the description section I add citation details so that I can retrace my steps if I need to.  I also upload images to FamilySearch as a secondary back up.  Well, I guess it’s more like a fourth back up.  😉

 

Do you have a file naming system that works for you?

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Happy Wednesday, I hope you make a fantastic, genealogy discovery today!  Then, give it a great file name that works for you.  😉

 

 


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Give Your Precious Photos Source Citations Too

photos need citations too-01

Have you ever found a photo on a public tree or website?  One that MIGHT be a photo of someone in your tree?  A photo you have never seen before, and maybe the only photo you have ever seen of someone?

I have.

In fact, one of my most tantalizing photo finds still vexes me.  Are you wondering why a photo find would vex me?  Let me tell you all about it.

Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde DUVAL

Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde DUVAL

That man up there is my 2nd great grandfather, Francis Cyprien Duval.  He was born in Rimouski, Québec to a long line of French folk who had lived in Québec for a few centuries.  He was the first in that direct line to leave Québec.  He settled in Alaska and married Alice and then they moved around a bit before finally settling in Lynn Valley, BC where Francis died.  We have a few scant family notes about his parents and siblings.  I knew his parents names and that they also left Québec and were buried in Blind River, Ontario.  I had a small handful of first names of some of his siblings and just a few other facts.  Because he is one of my immigrant ancestors, I feel very fortunate to have a small collection of photographs of him.  Enough in fact, that his image is well established in my family history.  Plenty of the photos are labeled and were labeled by his children.  That means that I trust that I know what he looks like and that those labels are accurate.

There is one other important reality because he was an immigrant – I have no photos, stories, and other artifacts for the family he left behind and never saw again.

So imagine my sheer delight when I came across this photo on Ancestry.com:

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This photo is tagged to the parents, sister, niece, and grand-nephew of my 2nd great grandfather Francis Cyprien Duval as he appears in another Ancestry.com user tree.  You will notice that the original poster included the names of each person in the description of the photo – bonus points for that.  You will also notice that it has been saved to several trees (including mine).

So why does this photo vex me?

Well, I have never seen a photo of Alexis/Alexander Duval & Marie Louise Demers anywhere else.  I have nothing to compare this image to.  When I came across it, I messaged the person who posted the photo and asked about the provenance of the photo.  Who had it, how she got it, how she knew for sure that it was a picture of who she said it was a picture of.  Before I basked in the deliciousness of finding a photo of ancestors for whom I do not have a photo, I wanted to make sure this photo was really a picture of my 3rd great grandparents.  I wanted to be as certain as was possible before I called it good and saved it to my tree.

The poster of said photo was very kind, and busy, and said she would get back to me after she returned from a trip.  Totally understandable.  Despite some communication after the trip, I have been unable to acquire the information I am seeking.

I look at this photo and want so much for it to be what it is proclaimed to be.  I see features of my Grandma in their faces.  I really want to call it good.  I want to tell everyone in my family about this cool find.  But it vexes me.  I don’t completely trust it.

You have probably come across a few photos that you hoped were labeled correctly too.  For me, it mostly happens when I am researching collateral relatives – siblings of ancestors, siblings-in-law of ancestors, cousins, etc.  Often I am researching these extended family members to help me take my tree further back.  But in doing this research, I can’t help but feel connected to these aunts, uncles, and cousins.  So when I come across an image of them – I love it!  It feels like a little treat at the end of the journey of learning about their life and how they were connected to my other family members.

But just like the possible photo of my 3rd great grandparents, I don’t completely trust a photo that isn’t labeled well.

 

So how can you give a photograph a good citation?  How can you help extended family members know that this photo you have shared is attributed to the right people?

 

 

I know that Evidence Explained contains a model for citing a photograph.  I’m sure the instructions are excellent and accurate.  I should really buy that book, but I haven’t.  So here are my tips for giving a photo a good citation based on my experience dealing with thousands of photos I have inherited from both sides of my family.  Let’s use an actual photo of my grandparents to help us.

 

Ronald & Margaret - darker

Your photo deserves a descriptive title.  It doesn’t have to be long, it just needs to be somewhat descriptive.  A good title should includes names and a date or event name.  i.e. “Ronald Peterson and Margaret Ellis, photo when Ronald had leave”.  If I have lots of photos of Ronald and Margaret – which I do – I want the title to be unique to the photo.

Your photo also deserves a detailed description.  You may not know every detail, but include anything you do know.  There are several important details to try to include:

  • Who is in the photo.  Use the “front row, l-r: and back row, l-r:” style to help make sure everyone is identified.  For this photo, I can stick with the names – Ronald Peterson and Margaret Ellis – since they are the only people in the photo.
  • When the photo was taken.  List the date or approximate date of the photo.  If you don’t know the date, you probably know a date range or time period, include that.  The next generation will know even less than you do, so help them out.  I don’t know the exact date of the photo, but I know it was taken while my Grandpa was serving in the Marine Corps.  He served from 1944-1946.
  • Where the photo was taken.  This can be trickier if the photo predates you.  In the case of my photo, I know that this photo would most likely have been taken in front of one of their homes because his leave was short – 24 or 48 hours long – and he hitchhiked from Colorado to Ogden, Utah.  He was only able to be there for a few hours before he had to start back.  I know what the front of Ronald’s family home looked like and this home is not a match.  I know that I have photos of Margaret’s family home somewhere that I could compare the photo to, I’m just not sure where they are (remember, I have thousands and I’m still working on scanning and organizing).  So I would probably note this photo as possibly being taken in front of the Ellis family home.
  • The provenance of the photo.  How did the photo make it to you?  How do you know the facts of the photo?  Who labeled it?  Why would they have known who is in the photo?  This can be simple or detailed, but this part is probably the most important part of your description.  In my case, this photo was part of my Grandmother’s collection.  The photo itself was not labeled, but there are hundreds of other photos of both Ronald and Margaret that are labeled in her collection.  The details surrounding this photo were told to me by my dad.  That is an important piece of information because someone else may remember the details differently and question my description.  Knowing who gave portions of the description helps other family members weigh the differences between my description and their memory or the memory of other relatives.

 

So, what would my title and description be for this photo?

 

Title:  Ronald Peterson and Margaret Ellis, photo when Ronald had leave

Description:  Ronald Peterson and Margaret Ellis.  Photo taken in Ogden, Utah, possibly in front of the Ellis family home (more work needed to establish location) when Ronald was home on leave.  Ronald served in the Marine Corps from 1944-1946.  Their son Kent shared the following details – “Ronald was given a short 24 or 48 hour leave.  He wanted to go home and see his family and his girlfriend.  He hitchhiked and only had a few hours to spend with loved ones before he had to head back to Colorado.”  This photo comes from the collection of Margaret Ellis that is in the current care of her granddaughter Amberly Peterson Beck.

 

This photo is a family favorite, so taking time to be a bit more detailed is important to me.  However, our time as genealogists is precious and limited.  We can’t spend this much time on every single photo ever taken of all of our loved ones.

 

So, when should you be this precise?

 

  • When a photo is the only one or one of just a few of a person.  The more rare a photo, the more details we want to include – especially about the provenance.
  • When the photo has special significance like the photo of my Grandma and Grandpa from the example.  My Grandparents treasured this photo and we have all in turn treasured it.  The next generation of my family deserves to know the special details of the photo.  What makes a photo special is up to you.  Is the event special?  Is the combination of people in the photo special?  Is it just a favorite photo?  Whatever the reason it is special to you, make sure the description reflects the import of the photo for future generations.

 

Let’s look at one more example of a photo I added to FamilySearch:

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This photo was in an album my Grandmother created.  She labeled it with only the names, Beth Christensen and Margaret.

(Hmmm… I would like to point out that the home looks an awful lot like the home in the background of the photo of my Grandparents.  I think I was onto something in guessing it was taken in front of the Ellis home.)

It took a little bit of work for me to figure out who Beth Christensen was.  There were no photos of Beth in FamilySearch at the time, so I added this and two others.  My title and description are pretty simple.  I did them quickly, but because there were no other public photos of Beth, I wanted anyone who viewed the photo to know enough about where the photo came from, to trust that the image was really of Beth.  I chose to include the detail of who Beth and Margaret’s common ancestors are because they are not in the same generation.  They are 1st cousins, once removed.

My title and description aren’t quite as good for this photo – but I felt like they covered what was most important, based on what I knew.

 

So next time you post a photo to a public tree or website, spend an extra minute giving your photo a good citation.  Help your extended family members out.  Tell them who, when, where, the provenance of the photo, and any other special or important details surrounding the photo or people in the photo.  Your family members will thank you!

 

photo descriptions-01

 

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: A Rare Moment

PETERSON, Ronald & Naomi, Janice in background - smaller for FT

Naomi Skeen with her son Ronald Skeen Peterson.  Janice Peterson in background.

When I found this photo amongst my Grandmother’s collection I gasped with delight.  It was the first photo I had found with Naomi and Ronald when Ronald was grown.  It made me realize that I don’t have many photos of myself with my children once they reached their teenage years.  They just don’t like the camera much anymore.  So this lovely, and rare, moment with my Grandpa and his mother feels extra special when I compare it with my own experience.

As an added bonus – I love the unintentional photo bombing of Ronald’s sister Janice.

 


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Creating Free, Beautiful Charts on TreeSeek

Adeline Perrault, 5.13.2017 fanchart

I love beautiful, informative charts.  I love them even more when they are free!  That lovely fan chart up there was created for free at TreeSeek.com, using information from FamilySearch.org.

In the center of that chart is Adeline Perrault, my 4th great grandmother straight up my maternal line.  I wanted to look at my tree based on only her ancestry to see where my holes are and make some decisions about where I may choose to research next.

Now, if you are thinking to yourself that you don’t use FamilySearch so creating that lovely chart is not an option for you, guess what?  TreeSeek has you covered.  You can create a chart from a gedcom file.  If you don’t use a genealogy software program, but you do use an online tree service such as the one found at Ancestry.com, you can download a gedcom file of your tree to use on TreeSeek.

Let’s take a quick tour of TreeSeek and the chart options you have.  When you go to TreeSeek.com you will see a landing page like this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.22.03 PM

Notice that in the center gray box you have two options: “Login now to create your chart” and “New! We now support creating charts with a GEDCOM file.  Try now.”  The login option will take you to a FamilySearch sign-in page.

Before we log-in, I want to point out that if you scroll down you will see some of the chart options available:

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After clicking the log-in option I am taken to a FamilySearch sign-in page.  If you are not a FamilySearch user, you will need to upload a gedcom file, your chart choices will be limited, but that beautiful 9 generation fan chart is available to you.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.52.30 PM.png

After logging in I am given some quick options.  Under “Starting Person”, there is a drop-down menu that currently has my name, Amberly Beck, showing.  The other options I have automatically are: my husband, children, and parents.  I can also choose anyone I like based on their 7 character PID number in FamilySearch.  I simply type that PID number into the empty box to the right of my name.  After selecting the start person, I choose my chart.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.31.26 PM

Here is the complete list of chart types to choose from:

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.31.38 PM

I can name my chart if I like and select whether I want to include the siblings of the start person on the chart.  Once I have made my selections, I click the green “Create Chart” button.

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Next, I will see this message as the chart is being created.

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Once the chart is complete it appears in a window like this:

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I can click the green “Download Chart” button to download this chart as a pdf.  Once I have the file, I can save it as a jpeg if I like.

If you are not a FamilySearch user, you will click on the “New! We now support creating charts with a GEDCOM file.  Try now.” button.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.22.03 PM

That will take you to this page:

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.32.26 PM

You will click the white “Choose File” button and then select your gedcom file from your computer.  After your file has uploaded, you will see this:

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In the dropdown menu you will see a list of people in your gedcom file.  They are organized generationally starting with you.  I chose my great grandfather and a 9 Gen Fan, and then clicked “Create Chart”.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 1.12.21 PM

Again, my chart shows up and I have the option to download the pdf file of the chart.

Here are a few other cool charts I was able to make.  These options are only available to FamilySearch users at present.

mixed first names cloud

Mixed first names in a name cloud from FamilyTree on FamilySearch, using me as the starting person.  This means this comes from my portion of the tree on FamilySearch.  Remember, no one has their own tree on FamilySearch.female first names cloud

Female first names in a name cloud.

male first name cloud

Male first names in a name cloud.

surnames name cloud

Surnames in a name cloud.

5 Generation Photo Family Chart

I think this chart is my favorite of all.  It uses the profile photos I have selected for each person on FamilySearch.  My parents are in the center with my brother and I beneath.  I removed the names of anyone who is living, but those are also on the chart.  I want to go in and update each person with the best photo of I have and create this chart again and frame it.  It’s such a lovely visual for my children to really get to know our family tree.  I also need to either remove my brother or add my other siblings.  😉

One last note, these charts print up beautifully in very large sizes.  They can be printed at any copy store.  If you live near BYU, the BYU Family History Library has a wonderful fan chart printing service available for anyone to use.  You can print a full color 24×18 poster print for $3.50 or a full color 24×36 poster print for $7.00.  They are printed on a high quality, thick paper.

 

Have you used TreeSeek to create any charts?  Do you have another favorite service for creating charts?

 

Happy Wednesday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!

 

 


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Can you spare 30 minutes? – An Indexing Update

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Close up shot of me proudly wearing an indexing button at RootsTech 2016

In March I shared my 2017 goal to index 6,000 records.  I am so happy to report that one of the indexing projects I have been helping with is soooooo close to being finished!

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On the right side of this screenshot you can see the stats on the 1881 Canadian Census, Part B.  So far, 53,664 images are complete, 10 images are awaiting indexing and 6 images are awaiting arbitration.  (I am pretty sure that means that the 10 images that need to be indexed will be added to the final arbitration list once they are indexed.)

This has been a fun challenge for me to help with.  I have been researching my Québec ancestors for about 4ish years now.  It was so painfully slow at first.  I don’t speak French.  But now I can zip right through things that felt impossible four years ago.  I’m still not a French speaker by any means, but I do know how to read most French Genealogy records for Québec.  Helping with the 1881 Canadian Census – which is in French – has really helped boost my understanding of the language and of names that I don’t have in my tree but sometimes see as witnesses to events for my family.

When I started, my accuracy percentage was not great.  I didn’t understand the diacritics well at all.  I’m still no expert, but I have memorized the keyboard shortcuts to help me type them and can recognize them in sloppy handwriting quite accurately now.

I was able to index 2,075 1881 Canadian Census records!

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Now that the project is nearly complete, and there are no batches available to download, I have moved on to the 1856 France, Saône-et-Loire Census.  It is stretching me even more.  I love it!

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My accuracy has gone way up.  There are occasional batches that are so hard to read and I get a surname wrong for a large family and my accuracy goes way down, but overall I’m doing pretty well at 97%.

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So far this year I have indexed 2,660 of my 6,000 record goal.  I’m a bit behind the pace I was hoping for but making progress.

Have you tried indexing?  If not, I promise there are plenty of English projects that need help.  Even a bunch of beginner projects.  FamilySearch is one of the many organizations you can index for.  They happen to be my preferred place to index because they provide their records freely to all.  If you have never indexed, check out the resources for indexers on FamilySearch.  The indexing page currently looks like this.

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I promise it is beginner friendly.

This infographic is a great summary of why indexing is so vital to genealogy.

fuelthefind1-686x1024

Have you indexed?  If so, who do you like to index for?

 

Do you have 30 minutes to spare?  If so, help “Fuel the Find” today by indexing one batch of records!

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: A Cowboy in the Making

PETERSON, Ronald on horse - smaller for FT

That cute little fella is my Grandpa, Ronald Skeen Peterson.  His dad was a cattle rancher.  Grandpa worked on the ranch for many years.  Great Grandpa got him started out riding horses at a young age.  How old would you guess he is here?

 

 


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My DNA Results – How do they compare to my tree? (Updated)

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Yesterday I shared my ethnicity percentages based on my tree.  They look a little something like this:

  • 62.5% – British Isles (English, Mixed British Isles, Scottish, Welsh)
  • 15.6% – Europe West (French Canadian, French)
  • 9.4% – Scandinavian
  • 6.3% – Some mixture of European Jewish & Italy, Greece
  • 6.3% – Iberian Peninsula (Spanish)

As you can see from my screenshot up there, I have some interesting differences between my tree and the DNA I inherited.  Here is a comparison of my tree ethnicities and my DNA ethnicities.

Ethnicity comparison - Sheet1

The first important note is that those trace ethnicities, 2% or lower, are often considered noise.  In my case, those bottom three surprise ethnicities are not backed up by documentation.  The first six however, are documented, even the 1% Iberian Peninsula.

The biggest surprises for me are these:

  • How little of the French and French Canadian DNA I inherited.
  • How much European Jewish DNA I inherited.
  • How much Italy, Greece DNA I inherited.

John Costello and his ancestors make up 12.5% of my tree.  And yet, I inherited 19% of the three regions he could have contributed – Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish, and Italy, Greece.

And here is where I need to beef up my learning, you see something I read recently caused me to misunderstand a very important point – you inherit 50% of your DNA from each parent, beyond that, it is a random mixture of all that came before them.  I had a handful of paragraphs with some interesting questions and insights into some of the nuances of my tree.  But those questions and insights were based on my misunderstanding, so I chopped them out.  😉  Thank you Deborah for some helpful pointers!  (See her comment below).

I have so much to learn about genetic genealogy.  I need to test my siblings and cousins so I can isolate the various pieces of my DNA and do some fancy-science-y-ultra-nerdy-but-oh-so-cool-DNA-genealogy like this.

While I am still learning, and not completely sure of what my next steps are, the thing I keep coming back to is… How can I be 10% European Jewish when I had no idea I had ANY European Jewish ancestry?  10%.  That’s a lot of percent.  Especially when I didn’t see it coming.

This DNA stuff is oh-so-fascinating.  Have you tested?  Did you find any surprises?

Happy Wednesday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today – DNA or otherwise!