Monday, August 14, 2017

Citing a Source as a Collection or as an Individual Document

While adding sources to RootsMagic today I've been thinking about whether (and when) it may be better to cite a collection as a source and/or whether (and when) it may be better to cite a single document as a source (even if it's part of a collection). 

A collection such as FamilySearch's "Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953" can be cited as a source.  Within that collection I may find 20 or 30 death certificates for ancestors and relatives that I will want to include as sources in my genealogy program.

If I cite that collection as a source
  • I can use the source for more than one document.
  • I can use the collection for more than one individual.
  • I will need to add only the individual's information to the citation.
  • I cannot use an individual document in that collection for more than one individual.

If I cite a single document as a source (even if it's part of a collection)
  • I can use that document for many of individuals.
  • I will have a longer list of sources than if I cite a collection as a source.
  • I will need to type some information again and again, information that I wouldn't have to if the collection were cited as the source.

As I see it, there are times when one citation is preferable over the other.

I will want to cite a document as an individual source even if it is part of a collection if it has information about other individuals in it.  A death certificate often names the deceased's parents which can become sources for them.  An obituary usually lists parents and other relatives which I'll want to use for more than the individual who died.  There are other times when multiple names and relationships are noted in documents, including census records.  When that happens I think I should always write a citation for the individual document.

When a collection includes documents that name only one individual and no relationships I think that would be an excellent time to cite the collection as a source.

It's possible that I'm missing or misunderstanding the options available in RootMagic or the reasons for citing one way or the other.  If so, I hope you who have more experience will please share your knowledge.

Whether or not you use RootsMagic you probably have to choose which way to cite collections and the individual documents in collections.  How do you choose?  What do you do?


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Done Is Better Than Perfect

When it comes to source citations I'm coming to believe that done is better than perfect.  Slap-dash, haphazard, careless, half-hearted, inaccurate source citations aren't acceptable, at least to me, but a best try that will lead me or anyone else back to the original source and document the live of ancestors is better than perfect sources never cited or recorded.

For too many years I've hesitated to add sources (and the ancestors they support) to my genealogy program because I didn't want the citations to be wrong.  (This is an imperfect perfectionist typing here.)  I worried about format and style and correctness so much that having a citation that led to the original source of the document went by the wayside.  That resulted in no record of the document and no citation in my genealogy program.  The documents and sources stop at the paper on which they're printed or an image saved to my computer.  I've always carefully recorded the source's information:  the url, the website name, the collection information (title, volume, page, line, etc.), and any other notes that clarify the source and information about the document.  Sometimes I go so far as to write a blog post about the search and the results.  And then I add the paper to a stack or a surname file. 

And you know what happens to all those papers, right?  Stacks.  Notice the photo above.  Those are 8" of papers in an open file box awaiting action.  And the stack at right is about 5" high and sits precariously on top of my scanner.  Do you know how many papers it takes to reach 13"?  I don't want to count.  The fact is, those papers stacked near my computer are nudging me out of my work space. 

My non-citing of sources has to stop.  About two months ago Colleen Brown Pasquale wrote a post, Mastering Genealogical Proof & Mastering Genealogical Documentation, on her blog, Leaves & Branches.  In the post she reviewed Thomas W. Jones's books by the same name and described how helpful the second book been to her in overcoming "citation anxiety."  From a conference talk by Dr. Jones she shared his belief that "content is more important than form."   Done is better than perfect, right?  A best effort is better than no effort at all.  Thank you for the motivation, Colleen and Dr. Jones.

Yesterday I pulled out half a dozen obituaries (dating from 2013 to this year) and a copy of a 1901 news article about my g-grandfather that I've had for months, opened RootsMagic, chose a fact to add to each individual's page, chose the closest source type, and added the information.  Perfect?  No.  Several of the obituaries I found online and I didn't find an exact source type in the RootsMagic list.  But I found one that worked and all the information I had about each item was included.  Anyone who wants to find that document will be able to.

It might take me many months (or years?) of consistent entering of documents/citations to my genealogy program to move the papers from stacks to their appropriate places but what a relief it will be to have the information all in one place and organized for each person/family in my genealogy program.  What a relief to see what information I have for each ancestor.

I can do this!  Done -- and done as well as possible -- is better than perfect.  Thank you again to Colleen and Dr. Jones.

Do you have or have you ever had "citation anxiety?"


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Ancestral Places Geneameme

The Ancestral Places Geneameme
Alona Tester of LoneTester has created a geneameme for family historians:  The Ancestral Places Geneameme.  Can we find a location associated with our ancestors' lives for every letter of the alphabet?  Alona writes,
Name the letter, followed by the place (town/parish/county/state/or country), and the surname/s associated with that place.  I'll be surprised if anyone can list places for all A-Z, but you never now.  And if you want to double up on letters, that's not a problem, go right ahead....

Here's my list (with multiples edited out):

A  Allegheny County, Pennsylvania  (Bickerstaff)
B  Bear Creek, Butler, Pennsylvania  (Bartley, Gerner, Smith)
C  Cross Creek Township, Jefferson, Ohio  (Thompson)
D  Dumright, Creek, Oklahoma  (Gerner)
E  Evansville, Trumbull, Ohio  (Doyle, Meinzen)
F  Fairview, Mercer, Pennsylvania  (Gerner)
G  Georges Run, Jefferson, Ohio  (Bell)
H  Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England  (Hartley)
I   Illinois  (Nelson)
J  Jefferson County, Ohio  (Armitage, Bell, Bickerstaff, Meinzen, Richardson, Thompson)
L  Lake Township, Mercer, Pennsylvania  (Saylor)
M  Mingo Junction, Jefferson, Ohio  (Bickerstaff, Thompson)
N  Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England  (Doyle, Laws)
O  Orangeville, Mercer, Pennsylvania  (Froman)
P  Pymatuning Township, Mercer, Pennsylvania  (Froman, Saylor)
R  Rocky River, Cuyahoga, Ohio  (Meinzen/Dray)
S  Stoneboro, Mercer, Pennsylvania (Doyle, Gerner, Froman)
T  Tuscarawas County, Ohio  (Bickerstaff, Holmes marriage)
V  Venango County, Pennsylvania  (Bartley, Gerner marriage in Sugar Creek)
W  Wallsend, Northumberland, England  (Doyle)
Y  Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio  (Bickerstaff)

No matter how I tried to skew it -- using city, township, county, state, country, or any other location -- I could not find places associated beginning with K, Q, U, X, or Z.  Maybe after more research.

Have you made a list of locations for your ancestors?


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Memory for National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

It's late in the day and I just learned that today, August 4, is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  Who knew?!  It's almost too late to post if I want to commemorate the day, but it's never too late to share a memory.

My father, Lee Doyle, never really liked chocolate chip cookies.  It wasn't that he disliked chocolate.  He would occasionally buy candy bars and really liked Clark bars but he said once that chocolate candy doesn't belong in cookies.  In fact, if chocolate chip cookies were the only dessert or evening snack offered, he would decline and, if at home, would go to the kitchen and fix himself some bread and milk.  He was born in 1913 and grew up in a time when chunk chocolate was less commonly used in baking.  I could never understand how he could pass up those cookies but that's just me.

About the time I was 14 or 15, my brother brought his girlfriend home to introduce all of us.  She visited off and on for maybe a year.  I'm certain that sometime during the times she visited my dad declined chocolate chip cookies, though he probably didn't make a big deal about it and it's a good guess she and my brother never discussed my father's cookie preferences.

After a time my brother proposed and they set a marriage date.  It was the expectation during those years for the the groom's parents to go to the home of the bride's parents to introduce themselves.  My parents and I travelled the four hours from our home to my soon-to-be-sister-in-law's family farm to meet her parents and the rest of her family.  They were warm and welcoming.  All went well until my brother's fiancée offered around a plate of just-baked cookies.

We all accepted a cookie and took a bite.  Yum, I thought.  My father, on the other hand, had a different reaction.  He didn't say anything but he chewed oh-so-slowly as if he were eating something distasteful.  When we were offered a second cookie, he declined.  My father thought he was about to eat an oatmeal raisin cookie.  What a surprise to find they were not raisins but chocolate chips.  Poor him.

Sometime later I remember  Dad saying to my sister-in-law, "You got me with those cookies when we visited your family.  I thought they had raisins in them."  We all chuckled.  It was then that my sister-in-law learned that my father did not like chocolate chip cookies.

I don't ever remember seeing my father eat a chocolate chip cookie -- except that one day.

And that's my chocolate chip cookie story for National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  I hope you enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie or two today.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved. .

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Now We Are Eight

Some years I forget that August 1, 2009, is the anniversary of My Ancestors and Me.  That year my daughter suggested I start a blog.  Why, I wondered?  What would I blog about?  And who would read it?  She persisted and it finally occurred to me that I could write a family history blog, though I still couldn't guess who would read it.  I went through the process of creating a blog, giving it a url with my name.  Only afterward did I realize that I didn't want to call it Nancy's Family History Blog.  I brainstormed names and finally settled on My Ancestors and MeThe first post was a photograph of my parents, taken during a happy moment of their lives, with a few short sentences.

I soon discovered Geneabloggers and submitted my blog for inclusion.  This blog isn't a daily read for many people but I doubt anyone would be reading it without Geneabloggers and now, GeneabloggersTRIBE.  You genealogy and family history bloggers are a wonderfully supportive and encouraging group of people.  Thank you.  And thank you to any family and friends who visit and read posts regularly.  I appreciate it.

I've commemorated this blog's beginning three times in the past and I love each of those blogiversary posts because they detail how I felt about blogging and family history research at the time I posted them.  They are
I'm not a prolific blogger nor a consistent one but some people come to this blog for several posts that seem to be perennially popular.  Other posts are of more limited interest but are interesting, nonetheless.

The eight most popular posts in the past 12 months are
     8  Don't Wait.  A Cautionary Tale
     7  Child #3:  Henry Kropp 
     6  Happy Thanksgiving
     5  FOR SALE --- Shopping Saturday
     4  Preparing for Christmas, Lighting the World
     3  Child #4:  Sophia Kropp Spahn
     2  December Birthdays & Anniversaries
     1  My Parents

The eight all-time most popular posts are
     8  Mineral Ridge High School Graduates, 1881-1954
     7  Genealogical Concept Map
     6  Reviewing Marriage Records
     5  Coal Miners in My Family
     4  Checklist for Completed Searches
     3  Au Gratin Potatoes a la Bill Knapp
     2  Helps for Translating the Old German Typeface 
     1 Helps for Translating That Old German Handwriting

For anyone who's interested, here are current statistics for my little blog:
     1,157 posts (plus about 120 draft posts)
     614,628 page views
I look forward to continuing to post information about my family history research and about my ancestors, their lives, and the places they lived.

Thanks for visiting.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Data Problem:  "Birth after Mother's Child-Beaing Years"

This is my first experience with this kind of data problem at FamilySearch Family Tree.  I am, perhaps, too careful with my research and hesitate to add anyone to a tree until I feel confident I have enough documentation to convince me of the accuracy of the names, dates, and relationships.  I added Abel and Eliza (Hartley) Armitage and their two daughters to Family Tree a number of years ago, but another attached Abel's parents.  I'm aware of his parents names from Abel's baptism record but I don't think names alone are enough to add them to Family Tree.

A few weeks ago I was looking at my Armitage line on FamilySearch, specifically Abel Armitage and his parents, and was surprised to see this message:  "Data Problems:  Birth after Mother's Child-Bearing Years."  Oops.

Abel's parents are shown as John Armitage, no birth year noted, and Hannah Baxter, born 1760.

What is the source of the problem?  Other records for Abel -- baptism and a series of census records -- consistently place his birth year at about 1821.  If that year is accurate, then the problem must lie with the person named as his mother, Hannah Baxter, or with her birth date.

Abel's baptism record gives only his parents' given names, John and Hannah.  It is the only record I've found with both of his parent's names on it.  Abel appears in the 1841 U.K census, at age 20, living away from home.  By 1851 he was already married.   

Abel's 1847 marriage record to Eliza Hartley names only his father John Armitage.

There are seven sources attached to Hannah Baxter Armitage on FamilySearch Family Tree.  Six are baptism records for children and the other is a marriage record with her name as "Hannah Baxter OR Pearson."  A note tells me that Hannah was created based on an extracted IGI record and can be found in "England Marriages, 1538–1973."  The citation states, "John Armitage and Hannah Baxter Or Pearson, 09 Aug 1784; citing Saint Peter, Huddersfield, York, England."

If Hannah had been 16 at the time of her marriage in 1784, her birth year calculates to about 1768.  Based on these calculations, she would have been 53 in 1821, the approximate year Abel was born.  There is a slim possibility that she may have had a child at that late age.  From Family Tree, the birth years of children were 1803 (2 children, George and Harriet), 1818 (Marianne), and 1821 (Abel and James).  Is there is any accuracy to these children?  If so, were the ones born in the same year twins or born at least nine months apart during the year?

Now begins the search for Hannah, mother of Abel Armitage, with only Abel's baptism record as a source.  What's sad is that six generations prior to Hannah Baxter are already named and linked in FamilySearch Family Tree.

This reminds me why I am cautious about adding people to my own personal family tree in RootsMagic and even more cautious about adding them to a public tree.  This also reinforces how important it is to consider dates and ages of parents and children.  Keep a calculator handy!

Have you had similar experiences with your families in public trees?  I'm sure it's much more common than I realize.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Time Is Running Out: My Genealogy Bucket List

Randy Seaver's most recent Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is this:
Knowing that a "Bucket List" is a wish list of things to do before death:

What is on your Genealogy Bucket List?  What research locations do you want to visit?  Are there genea-people that you want to meet and share with?  What do you want to accomplish with your genealogy research?   List a minimum of three items - more if you want!
I sense time speeding up and running out.  I could live 30 more years or a day.  Energy, health, and strength are not what they were a dozen years ago, either.  I need to hurry if I'm going to accomplish some of these items on my wish/bucket list, especially the overseas travel.

  • Contact the owner of Dixon Bartley's home to request a tour of the inside of the house and out building.  If he is agreeable, arrange a time to travel to Bruin, Butler County, Pennsylvania, to visit.  While there, visit the courthouse and several cemeteries.  Before going, research census records and/or city directories to see if any of Fred and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner's homes are still standing and if they are, visit those, too.
  • Find Henry Meinzen's birth town and determine who his parents are.
  • Continue my Doyle line far enough to determine whether if/when my ancestors emigrated from Ireland to England.
  • Attend RootsTech.  I'm sure I would be completely overwhelmed but wouldn't it be grand to be in the presence of so many  knowledgeable family historians!
  • Go to England!  I'd love to travel to Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, to visit the area where my Armitage ancestors lived and especially see and visit the Bradford Cathedral where Abel and Eliza (Hartley) Armitage were married.  Then next travel to Northumberland and visit several of the towns and cities where my Doyle ancestors lived.  It would be fun to learn if there are historical societies in those areas that recreate/reenact life in the early to mid-1800s.
  • A week at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City would be wonderful.  I was there once for an hour or so when we drove our daughter from home to Rexburg, Idaho.  I wasn't able to do any research and the library volunteers seemed so disappointed.  I was disappointed, too.

Not having given much thought to a bucket list until Randy posted the questions, I'm sure this is a short list.

Thanks for the genealogy fun, Randy.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Expectations and Surprises of a Beginning Family History Researcher

"Really?" was one of those words that was often on my lips when I first began family history research.  At the time I knew little about my family or my ancestors and even less about family history research.  I expected that certain things would be true:  names, ages, locations, etc.  At first I was confounded by research results (Is this my ancestor or not?) and then I was surprised.  Below are some of my expectations and the surprises I found.

Expectation #1
  • Surnames will be spelled the same on all documents.  Our family's names are spelled D-o-y-l-e, M-e-i-n-z-e-n, and G-e-r-n-e-r, etc.  If a name is spelled some other way it's not my family. 
The Surprise
  • What's this:  D-o-y-l, M-i-n-s-e-n, and G-u-r-n-e-r?  Can these be my people when the spelling of surnames changes from one document to the next, from one year to the next?  I deliberated whether a family who looked like it could be my family in a census (same first names and ages, location correct) was really mine because the spelling of the surname was wrong.  I saved the document as a possible match and searched for the family in another census -- and found another spelling variation.  Hmmm. 
And Now I anticipate surname variations and sometimes keep a list of possible spellings at hand.  Occasionally I purposely search the variations.  I take them as clues to how names may have been pronounced.

Expectation #2
  • Ages will be the same in documents from the same year and increase the exact number of years from the date of one document to the next. 
The Surprise
  • How can he be 52 in the 1880 census when he was 40 in 1870, and the censuses are only 10 years apart?  This probably isn't my person.  
And Now I know that ages can vary by at least several years across all documents with ages on them.  I generally search birth dates within a range.  Ages in census records can be different because census dates vary.  Perhaps people didn't keep track of their ages or perhaps ages were less important a hundred or more years ago.  Sometimes it's possible to narrow down a birth month if one knows the census dates.

The Expectation #3
  • Given names will remain the same, will be spelled the same, and if there are given and middle names, they will remain in the same order. 
The Surprise
  • Is it Tressa Rose or Rose Tressa?  Is her name Belle, Isabelle, Isabella, or Belletta?  Did people change their names on a whim?
And Now I have no expectation that given names will have exact consistency over time, though I hope for only small/few variations in spelling and order. 

Expectation #4
  • Well of course my ancestors could read and write.  That's a given for an educated person.  I'm sure all my ancestors had good educations.
The Surprise
  • She's listed as unable to read and write.  Really?!  And so are plenty of others among my ancestors.
And Now I'm surprised when I learn that ancestors could read and write.  My ancestors learned in many different ways and may have known much more than I do about a great variety of things.  Being able to read was less important when not everyone owned books.  Being illiterate does not mean a person was/is unintelligent. 

Expectation #5
  • Skeletons in my family's closet?  Surely not!  My ancestors were fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizens who were normal in every way.
The Surprise
  • He committed suicide?!  He was killed in an accident?  Why didn't I ever hear about this when I was a kid?  (Of course I wouldn't have heard because I came from a family of non-storytellers.)
And Now I think how sad that an ancestor found himself/herself in a such a situation, but I can't change the past.  Dramatic, traumatic, and horrific events are recorded in newspapers (though not always accurately) which means it's sometimes easier to find the ancestors who were "different" in some way or other.

Expectation #6
  • When family "records" tell me that he immigrated with his family in 1869, that's what I expect to find.
The Surprise
  • Immigration records show that he came in 1868 and his family came in 1869.  Are those my people?
And Now I don't accept family "records" as gospel.  I think of them as hints and then search for documents to support, correct, and/or clarify the family "records."

Expectation #7
  • Finding children will be as easy as looking at a census record.
The Surprise
  • There's no "one" list?  One census lists eight children, another says the mother had 12 children with 9 living, and the father's will lists five children. 
And Now I realize there might always be another child and be aware of documents that may reveal them.  If there's a 1910 census I use that as a basis to begin (because it asks how many children the mother had and how many were living at the time).  And just because the census states that she was the mother of 10 children I know her current husband may or may not be the father of all of them. 

Expectation #8
  • His wife's name is Sarah.  I'm sure there's a marriage record.
The Surprise
  • This marriage records her name as Mary, not Sarah!
And now I wonder if either Mary or Sarah are middle names.  And I'm aware that an individual may have married more than once so I search for marriage records for both Mary and Sarah and/or other documents that indicate they were the same person.

Expectation #9
  • Children always know their father's and mother's names.
The Surprise
  • Her death certificate says "doesn't know" for name of mother/father.  How can that be?  How could she not know her own parent's name?
And Now I know that the informant listed on the death certificate may be the one who didn't know the parent's name, not the deceased.  I'm also aware that if a parent died when a child was very young he may not know anything about his birth parent, including name, especially if the surviving parent remarried.  And sometimes, people just didn't keep track of that information, especially a mother's maiden name.

These are a few of the expectations I remember having as a beginner.  Those early years of research were interesting with their misunderstandings and uncertainties but I eventually found and sorted out the ancestors of those early searches.

What were some of your expectations when you first began family history research?  What surprises did you find? 


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Alternate Spelling Finder -Tuesday's Tip

In my early days as a family historian I expected that each family surname would be spelled exactly the same way on every document.  And then I learned about spelling variations.  Lots and lots of variations.  Still, some ancestors elude me.  Maybe there's another spelling variation I should try.

Datayze's Alternate Spelling Finder to the rescue.  Or, at least, maybe it will help.

This tool gives a broad range of variations, some of which may be more useful than others.  some strange variations but it's also given me some that hadn't occurred to me.

Type in the surname (or any word, for that matter) and press enter on your keyboard.  Voilà.  More variations than you might have known were possible.  Of course, some are more likely to have occurred in records than others.

These are variations for some of my surnames.






Maybe it will be a helpful resource.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Wishing You a Glorious Fourth.

May we ever remember the courage of those who gathered to propose independence for the American colonies and those who fought to make a free nation. 


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