thegenealogygirl


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Tuesday’s Tip: FamilySearch Record Hints & Ordering Sources

Tuesday's Tip

I’m starting something new around here – Tuesday’s Tip.

 

Many of you know that I volunteer once a week at my local Family History Center.  I’ve been doing that for about 5 years.  During that time I have been able to help people of varying experience and ability.  All of that one-on-one time helping different people has been very enlightening.  We all do things differently.  All of these differences have highlighted some best practices and shortcuts that I will share in short videos.

I don’t promise to post one every week.  But, probably for a while, I will.

Here are a few things you can expect from me:

  • I will try to make the title as descriptive as I can.
  • I will include video notes in each post to help you know some of the main points covered in the video.
  • I will add a few additional pieces of information relevant to the general topic.

Hopefully, this will help you know if the video is something you are interested in watching.

 

So, here is my first Tuesday’s Tip:

 

Be sure to click ‘HD’ at the bottom right of the video screen.

 

 

Video Notes:

  • Family Tree on FamilySearch has a ‘Record Hints’ section.  Only 3 hints can show in the box on a person page – there can be more in the background.  Watch to learn how to find those additional hints.
  • Learn how to review the data in a hint and determine if the hint should be attached.
  • Trying to save time?  Page load time matters, I’ll show you how to save a bit of it.
  • Sometimes hints are records about another person, like a death record for a child.  Learn how to understand these types of hints.
  • After you review and attach a record, learn how to put the sources in chronological order.

 

And a few last notes.  When dealing with record hints it is important to remember:

  • Not all record hints are accurate!
  • If there is a record image linked to the index, ALWAYS view the image before attaching the record.  Remember, the image often has more information than the index and you can usually learn new information about the person and their family.
  • If you don’t know that the record is about your person, don’t attach it.  Learn more about the person and the record and then make a decision.  If you still don’t know for sure that the record belongs to the person, leave it alone.
  • Many records in FamilySearch have been indexed more than once.  If a record is about your person, attach it!  Even if that means there will be two or three of the same record attached.  The algorithm that generates those hints is a learning algorithm.  If you tell it that it was wrong when it wasn’t, you’ve just given it bad information.  If it bothers you to have multiple versions of the same record attached, just move the duplicates to the bottom of the source list.

 

 

 


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The Mixed Up Case of the Two James Youngs & Janet Robertsons in Renfrewshire, Scotland

which James Young-01

In May of 2014, I had a happy breakthrough moment when I added another generation to my tree on my Young line in Scotland.  It was a major victory that had just been waiting there for me.  That discovery led to additional discoveries when I found parents for both James Young and Janet Robertson.  In just a few short weeks I had added two full generations and plenty of descendants.  It was exciting!

My excitement quickly came to a halt.

You see, I like to participate in building the Family Tree in FamilySearch.org.  So once I have researched a family well, I go into FamilySearch and try to update, source, add, merge, or whatever is needed, to help that Tree be as correct as possible.

When I went into the tree to add or attach James Young & Janet Robertson’s parents, I was faced with the most convoluted mess I’d come across yet.

This was my James & Janet with some of their children:

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 2.18.49 PM

Everything looked pretty good.  Some facts, sources, children, and grandchildren were (and still are) missing, but otherwise, this was all correct.

But then a troubling duplicate reared it’s head when I went looking for James Young and Janet Ferguson, James’ parents.  I found this:

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 7.46.36 PMScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 7.46.02 PM

So what is the trouble exactly?  Oh goodness, where do I begin…

This James Young has the same birth and death dates and places as my James Young.  He also has parents with the same names as my James Young’s parents.  His wife also has the same name as my James Young’s wife.  His first two children listed have the same names, birth dates, and birth places as my James Young’s first two children.

But then.  There are problems.

The marriage date and place are different by two years and 1 parish.  This James Young’s wife Janet Robertson has a different birth date and place, and different parents from my Janet.  And, who are those last two children?  They don’t seem to belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson.

The more I tried to unravel this, the more confusing it was.  I started by looking at the marriage records for both couples.  I wondered if they were a duplicate couple who had banns read in a neighboring parish?  Had the record of the banns been indexed incorrectly?  It’s a pretty big stretch since the entire date is so drastically different, but I wasn’t going to rule it out.  Looking at all of the records – all four – made it quite clear that there were two couples.  One who married in Renfrew, Renfrewshire in 1823 and one who married in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1821.

At this point I decided I needed to complete a surname study for both parishes.  For the next three years I slowly went through the microfilm records for these parishes every time I went to BYU to research.  I had a notebook.  Every event for someone with the surname of Young was recorded.  It was slow and tedious.  I didn’t have much time to give to it.  It felt like it would take forever.

But then!  Ohhhh, this is about to get good…

About six weeks ago, I started helping two different people with Scottish research.  I hadn’t been working on my Scottish lines recently.  I knew that the ScotlandsPeople website had been updated.  I’d gotten lots of emails about it.  I just hadn’t tried it out yet.  There were so many complaints about glitches at first, that I thought I would let the dust settle before I used it.  I had other parts of my tree to work on, so it was just fine.

As I helped these two different people discover the joys of Scottish research, it started an itch for me.  I wanted to work on part of my Scottish lines again.

One afternoon, about 4 weeks ago, I was zipping around my house getting stuff done.  I had the strongest impression that I should revisit one of my brick walls – Andrew Brown, my 4th great grandfather.  I dropped everything and gave it a look.  Over the next three days I completely demolished that brick wall and had the best time pushing my tree back several generations.  But that, is a story for another day.

As my Andrew Brown journey was winding down, I thought about my dusty notebook and my Young Surname Study.  It hadn’t gotten any attention for a few months.  ScotlandsPeople is so different now.  I thought I could probably complete the project from home now without having to buy too many records.  So I pulled out my notebook and got to work.

I am sooooo happy to say that on Tuesday, the 13th of June, 2017, I tackled the main goal of my Young Surname Study.  I had enough information to accurately separate the two James Young and Janet Robertsons and their children.  I carefully fixed everyone, sourced them, and made sure they are attached to the correct family members.  That Tuesday was a long and wonderful day.

Without going into too many confusing details, this is what I discovered.

The James Young who was attached to my James Young’s parents is a different man.  He did in fact marry a Janet Robertson in 1821 in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire.  But after that, there is no trace of either of them.  No children, no death records, no census.  I don’t know where they went.

The first two children – James Young b. 1824 and Thomas Young b. 1828 were actually the children of my James and Janet and were duplicates.

The daughter, Jean Young, who did not belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson, did not belong to this James Young and Janet Robertson either.  She is the daughter of John Walker Young and Janet Robertson who were married in 1828 in Neilston, Renfrewshire.  Her complete name is actually Jean Anderson Young and this little darlin’ has two birth and baptism records in two different parishes.  Luckily for me, the father’s unusual occupation of (Calico) Printer in Grahamston was listed on both of her records, along with the detail that she was the couple’s 2nd child and 2nd daughter.

The last son listed, Robert Young, was not the child of my James and Janet or of this James and Janet either.  He was the son of a James Young and Janet Robertson who married in Paisley, High Church, Renfrewshire in 1831, four years before his birth in the exact same parish and ten years after the marriage of the couple he was attached to.

In the end, this meant that the convoluted James and Janet were left with no birth and death dates and places for James, no children, no parents for James, and still attached to the parents for Janet.  Parents that I did not research, so I can’t say for certain they are in fact her parents.

My James and Janet are now attached properly to their children and parents.  Well, aside from the few children I haven’t fully researched and added yet.

My surname study is not complete.  There are still plenty of family members I need to finish researching.  But these are my big takeaways from my progress so far:

First – Don’t be afraid of a mess in FamilySearch.  You can solve it!  Even if it takes three years.  No one messed with the mess because I left a very detailed note on both James Youngs explaining my research project.  If you want to work effectively in FamilySearch – communicate!  Leave notes, sources, and good explanations when you make changes or additions.

Second – A surname study is an AWESOME way to really get to know a parish and a family or set of families.  You get a good sense of how many people live there and how they are connected to each other.  It took my best guesses, and some surprise people and facts,  and turned them into concrete conclusions.

Third – There are A LOT of James Youngs in the county of Renfrew in Scotland.  😉

 

Have you ever completed a surname study?  Would a surname study help your research?

 


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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:

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 6.01.34 PM

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:

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 7.13.49 PM

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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Public Member Ancestry Trees – A Mixed Bag

esther death

Burial record for the other Esther Brouillette.  Record from ancestry.com.

Public Member trees on ancestry.com have a quite a reputation.  The funny thing is they are wholeheartedly embraced by some, completely shunned by some, and then used as a potential clue by others.  I’ve had a few experiences recently that demonstrate the importance of taking the middle road.

Let’s start with a good experience:

Laura Ann Potter is my 4th great grandmother.  My sister Megan works on this line in our tree.  For a few years now Megan has had a good guess about Laura Ann Potter’s parents but all of her evidence was indirect and a little thin.  Recently we were talking it through.  I pulled up my private Ancestry tree to refresh my memory.  I looked at the hints on Laura Ann Potter – just a few public member trees.  I went through each one that had parents listed for Laura Ann Potter to see what sources they had attached to their trees.  Lo and behold one of them had an excellent source.  A source that combined with the indirect evidence confirmed Megan’s guess.

While that was certainly a good experience with a public member tree on Ancestry, not all experiences match that one.

Let’s explore a frustrating experience:

Esther Brouillette is my 3rd great grandmother.  I know of her from my grandmother.  Esther’s name has existed on family group sheets held by my family for the last five generations but with no additional details.  She was the end of line person.  We knew very little about her because she was born in Quebec, immigrated to Illinois, married, had 5 children and died before the 1880 census was taken.  A short life of at most, 41 years.

Through a lot of research and use of indirect evidence I have determined that her parents are Landrie (or Andrew) Brouillette and Emilie Fortin.  Until very recently the public member trees on Ancestry were very quiet about Esther.  They listed her husband and children but no parents.

Well, a few months ago I was revisiting those trees to see if anyone else had found what I had found.  Two trees were now listing parents.  Different parents than I had proven.  So I took a look because – what if I was wrong?  I was using indirect evidence after all.

One tree had a baptism record attached to Esther.  It listed parents names that matched the parent names listed in that tree.  So I went to that parish book and looked through a few years worth of entries and this is what I discovered.  The Esther in the baptism record was born and baptized one day and died the next day.  So that Esther was definitely not my Esther who lived for about 40 years.  After contacting the tree owner, her response was that she just figured they may have had another daughter later and used the same name.

Okay.  That is possible.  People do that.  But the record being used to prove Esther’s parents was about a different person.  The mother in that record remarried another man eight years after Esther’s death.  Her marriage record states she was a widow.  During the years between Esther’s death and the mother’s remarriage I can find no other birth records that could be our Esther born to those parents.

Here’s the super frustrating part.  The parents listed in that tree have now been added to two more trees.  Oh boy.  It’s just going to spread.  And it’s wrong.

This experience definitely falls into the not-so-good experience category.  It also illustrates why we can’t blindly trust someone else’s tree.  We can certainly use it as a guide to go looking for sources that either prove or disprove the conclusions in the tree.  But blindly accepting a tree can quickly lead us down the wrong road.

Public member trees on Ancestry can be quite helpful.  They can also be completely wrong.  Just like every other genealogy resource, it’s up to us to use them wisely.

How about you?  Have you had any good, bad, or in-between experiences with public member trees?

 

 

 

 


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Crista Cowan Quote

gg - crista cowan quote

 

Ancestry.com started a new thing.  A very cool new thing they call ‘Between the Leaves‘.  I watched the first video recently and was struck by this statement made by Crista Cowan.  She was talking about the importance of sources and citing those sources, whatever they are.  And then she threw out this great statement – Truth without proof – not really truth.  How often I have found hand written notes with family information but there is no attribution and my truth is not really truth until I prove it with a source.  If you missed the video, check it out.

 
Quote used with permission.

 


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preservingtime.org

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 8.17.57 PM

When I am researching an area that is new to me, one of the places I like to go is preservingtime.org.  This website has links to the very best genealogy websites available.  It is not a collection of every website – just the most comprehensive ones.

The two areas I use most often are found under ‘Web-site Project’.  I use the ‘Other Countries’ list and ‘United States’ > ‘State Specific’ list.  This a a go-to guide that I check often to find location specific websites.

There are plenty of other goodies on this website that are worth a gander.

If you are familiar with a website that you feel is worth being included, let me know and I will tell the website owner.  She’s my friend.  Does that make me cool?  Totally.

Check it out!


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From the Beginning: Where should I look for sources?

gg - where should I look for sources

Sources are any item we use to draw conclusions about our ancestors.

Usually when we talk about sources we are looking for birth, marriage, and death records, church records, census records, military records, court documents, wills, land records, newspaper articles, journals, compiled histories, interviews, photos, artifacts and so on.

 

So where do you go to find these treasured bits?

When I research I follow this pretty simple model:

  • Look at the information I already have.
  • Talk to family members to see if they know more.
  • Check my top 5 websites – familysearch.org, ancestry.com, findagrave.com, genealogybank.com, newspaperarchive.com.
  • Google the person I am searching for with quotation marks around their name.  Like this, “Francis Cyprien Duval”.
  • Google the location – read a few articles.
  • Look for location specific websites.  I use google and preservingtime.org regularly for this.  When I find a website or online collection that fits the location and time period I use that resource.  For example, I do a lot of Scottish research and I use the website scotlandspeople.gov.uk.  This a great website specific to Scottish research.
  • Check online trees to see if anyone else has researched the person I am researching.  If I find someone I make contact.  Don’t trust those trees.  Use them as a guide – not as gospel truth.

 

If I still need more info and I haven’t found it yet then I:

  • Check the FHL catalog to see if there is a book, film, or fiche I can view that is not currently online.
  • Talk to other genealogists to see if they know someone familiar with that location who might be able to give me pointers.
  • Check google books for a mention of the person or place.
  • Identify the church the person attended and contact their registrar or clerk.

If I still need more then I give it a rest.  Often a bit of time will help.  When I come back to the problem usually one of two things happens.  Either I look at it with fresh eyes and see something I had missed before OR a new record collection has become available and it contains exactly what I need.

So far this method has served me well.  I only have one true stumper that has not yielded to this method.  I’m still working on him.  I’m going back through my steps and picking up more bits of info.  I’ll solve it yet no doubt.

So beginners, give these tried and true websites a whirl and see if you can’t find the sources you are looking for.

Best of luck and happy searching!