Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Genealogical Research is always Genealogical Research


The more things change, the more they stay the same. Technology has changed some of the methodologies of genealogical research, but the core objectives and processes remain the same. For example, I can travel along on a freeway at a high speed, but travel is essentially the same as it was in antiquity. It is travel and you have to keep alive, eat, sleep, and maintain a daily routine despite the method you use or the time involved to move from one place to another.

Genealogy has its routine activities that will never change. No matter how fast I obtain the information I will still have to go through the processes of evaluation and incorporation.

What happens if we ignore our essential living activities? If we fail to eat, sleep or do other things that are detrimental to our well-being, we will begin suffering rather quickly. I don't know of anyone who has been injured by genealogical deprivation, but our genealogical work also suffers when we fail to do the basic things that assure us of a healthy and accurate family tree. What are those routine genealogical activities?

One of the most basic is evaluating any entries to the extent possible. Here is a randomly chosen example of an entry that is far from complete from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program.


In this particular case, perhaps this is all we know about this person. Why is the entry incomplete? The reason for this may not be evident from a cursory examination. Well, let's have a look to see how accurate and complete this entry really is.

This entry has six sources listed. All of them spell his name as "Rutherford." Only one has two "o" letters. In addition, here is the list of his children.


The spelling of the name is not a trivial issue. It is entirely possible that at the date reflected, the person's name was not spelled consistently. But if there were, in fact, two different spellings of the name, that should be noted in the Other Information section. Here is what that section notes:


This entry for the supposed "Birth Name" is an artifact of the Family Tree program's incorporation of records from previous submissions of the individuals to FamilySearch and its predecessors. Here the birth name should be changed to "Also Known as."


I would also be inclined to change the person's name to "Rutherford" and use the alternative spelling of "Rutherfoord" as the alternative. I would only do this because there was one record with the name spelled differently.

The children listed is a more serious issue. The Ritchie children were apparently born in the United States, while this family is definitely from Scotland. It appears that they have been added without any sources or explanation as to why they have parents who lived in Scotland and when the mother would have been quite old. There is no reason at all as to why they are included in this family and they should be removed.

All of the entries in the Family Tree and elsewhere for that matter need to go through the same evaluation process. No matter how much technology changes the methodology of genealogy, the basic research functions of evaluation and incorporation need to be carefully observed.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Adoption Challenge to Genealogical Research - Part Two: Orphan Trains


There are whole books written on the subject of Orphan Trains including a number of novels. Here is a short summary of this controversial episode in American history from Wikipedia: Orphan Train.
The Orphan Train Movement was a supervised welfare program that transported orphaned and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. The orphan trains operated between 1854 and 1929, relocating about 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children. 
Three charitable institutions, Children's Village (founded 1851 by 24 philanthropists),the Children's Aid Society (established 1853 by Charles Loring Brace) and later, the New York Foundling Hospital, endeavored to help these children. The two institutions developed a program that placed homeless, orphaned, and abandoned city children, who numbered an estimated 30,000 in New York City alone in the 1850s, in foster homes throughout the country. The children were transported to their new homes on trains that were labeled “orphan trains” or "baby trains". This relocation of children ended in the 1920s with the beginning of organized foster care in America.
The controversy comes from the fact that some (or perhaps most) of these children were treated like indentured servants or worse, although some were well cared for. Here is a selection of books and other media items on the subject. You can probably tell from this partial list that the subject was and is highly controversial.

Becker, Kristi. “Orphan Trains,” 2005.
Bracken, Jeanne Munn, and JoAnne Weisman Deitch. The Orphan Trains. Carlisle, Mass.: Discovery Enterprises, 2002.
Caravantes, Peggy. The Orphan Trains, 2014.
Films Media Group, and Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.). The Orphan Trains, 2015. http://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=13753&xtid=111647.
Flanagan, Alice K. The Orphan Trains. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2006.
Haseloff, Cynthia. Changing Trains, 2013.
Hearn, Wendy, Jill Petzall, Carl Kassel, Leanie Mendelsohn, and inc Filmakers Library. The End of the Line: Orphan Trains. New York, N.Y.: Filmakers Library.
Hering, Marianne, and David Hohn. Trouble on the Orphan Train, 2016.
Holt, Marilyn Irvin. The Orphan Trains: Placing out in America. Lincoln; London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.
Hurwitz, Gregg Andrew. Orphan X, 2016.
Johnson, Kristin F. The Orphan Trains. Edina, Minn.: ABDO Pub. Company, 2012.
Kanopy (Firm). American Experience: The Orphan Trains., 2016. http://www.kanopystreaming.com/node/181235.
Kay, Verla, and Ken Stark. Orphan Train. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2003.
Keach, Stacy. “The orphan trains.” PBS, 2006.
Langston-George, Rebecca. Orphan Trains: Taking the Rails to a New Life, 2016.
Milner, Anita Cheek. “Orphan Trains.” Genealogical Helper. Dec (1981).
Muldoon, Kathleen M. Champion of the Cornfield: An Orphan Train Story. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2003. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=464535.
———. The Real Hannah Green: An Orphan Train Story. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2003. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=464537.
O’Connor, Stephen. Orphan Trains. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. http://www.myilibrary.com?id=656158.
Orphan Train. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio, 2014.
Orphan Trains. http://www.myilibrary.com?id=621356.
Orphan Trains., 2001.
Riley, Tom, American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless, and Orphan Train Heritage Society of America. The Orphan Trains. New York: LGT Press, 2004.
Schaefer, Mary, and Barb Volp. The Orphan Trains, 1979.
Smoky Hills Public Television. Placing out: The Orphan Trains. Bunker Hills, Kan.: Smoky Hills Public Television, 2007.
Warren, Andrea. Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story. New York: Scholastic, 1997.
———. We Rode the Orphan Trains. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2001.
Warren, Andrea, Laura Hicks, and AudioGO (Firm). Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story. North Kingstown, RI: AudioGO, 2013. http://www.OneClickDigital.com.
Wheeler, Leslie. Orphan Trains. Place of publication not identified: publisher not identified, 1984.
———. “The Orphan Trains.” American History Illustrated 18, no. 8 (1983).

If you suspect that one or more of your ancestors participated in the Orphan Trains, the first place to start doing some research is The National Orphan Train Complex. The mission of the National Orphan Train Complex is stated as follows from their website:
The mission of the National Orphan Train Complex is to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate knowledge about the orphan trains, and the children and agents who rode them. The museum’s collections, exhibitions, programming, and research will engage riders, researchers, and the general public and create an awareness of the Orphan Train Movement.
The website contains lists of resources including a number of related websites. See also the following:


Previous Posts in this series:

http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-adoption-challenge-to-genealogical_24.html
http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-adoption-challenge-to-genealogical.html

The Matter of the Genealogical Suitcase


We were stopped to open the door to the Brigham Young University Library for a lady dragging a large rolling suitcase and carrying a load of books and files in her hands. She thanked us for the help and walked on down the hallway. I began to think about this and realized that I was in exactly that same condition some years ago. However, today, I was not carrying anything, not even a flash drive. My days of lugging around piles of paper and notes were definitely and completely over. My suitcase or briefcase or whatever was now sitting empty at home.

Obviously, the difference was the advent of computers and online storage programs. It was also a matter of carrying a camera (my iPhone) with me all the time. With an iPhone (or any other camera), I did not need to take notes on paper. Because the Library has a huge bank of computers to use, I do not have to take my own computer to the Library. Because I have online storage, I do not have to take a flash drive to the Library either. So, no suitcase or briefcase.

If I find a book or paper document, I take a photo. If I find something online, I copy it and either upload it immediately to FamilySearch.org or into Dropbox.com or some other online storage program. On some occasions, mostly out of habit, I will write something down on a slip of paper. If I don't have a pen, I will borrow one for the time it takes to write down the note. But I could just put the note directly on my Google Docs pages and forget the note.

This transition has taken many years; over thirty to be more exact. There are still a lot of suitcases in the libraries and I am guessing the suitcase people will not be selling many of those rolling types for research very much longer.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How or Why I Choose Some BYU Family History Library Webinar Topics


Beginning Danish Research: Sorting out the Places - James Tanner

I often get comments about the topics selected for inclusion in the Brigham Young University Family History Library Webinar project. The comments usually focus on the process of coming up with new topics. Some of the selections (here I am speaking entirely for my own presentations) seem to be generally of interest to genealogists and some, like the webinar above, seem to be aimed a very narrow audience.

The webinar on Beginning Danish Research focuses on the issue of identifying the exact place where an event occurs in an ancestor's (or relative's) life. This is a basic principle of genealogical research. Failure to properly identify the location of an event and then assuming that the information found is applicable to your ancestor is the basis for the very common "the same name = the same person" errors that are rampant in online family trees. It will be somewhat rare when one of my videos, even those that are seemingly of limited interest does not involve a topic of general application.

The entire theme of my webinar presentations is fostering an increased accuracy in genealogical research. The secondary theme is expanding the focus of that same research from names, dates, and places to placing the individual and family in the greater historical context.

Many of the shorter videos from the BYU Family History Library are directed at teaching the missionaries (volunteers) who work in the Library. They may seem to have limited focus, but the idea is to increase the general knowledge and competence of the volunteer missionaries. This is a good goal for anyone involved in genealogical research and especially applicable to those who are helping others.

Personally, I will never run out of topics. There is way too much to say and there is always something to talk about.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Find Data Problems with the The Family Nexus iPhone App

http://thefamilynexus.com/2017/04/19/find-data-problems-using-the-family-nexus-app/

One of my recurring themes is the importance of determining the exact location of events in our ancestors' lives. I have also previously mentioned The Family Nexus, an iPhone app for mapping. This very useful app has an additional use way beyond simply finding ancestral events as we are traveling around. Here is a description from The Family Nexus Blog post entitled, "Visualizing Tree Data Problems."
Open Google Maps and search for “PA.” Although a common abbreviation for “Pennsylvania,” without context Google Maps shows you Panama! The Family Nexus iPhone app automatically maps birth, marriage, death, and burial locations of 6+ generations of your FamilySearch family tree. It uses the “standardized” place associated with locations of life events stored in FamilySearch. Seeing these locations instantly plotted on a map is awesome. It can also be a very convenient way to spot data problems in your Tree. Let’s review 2 ways you can find data problems using The Family Nexus App.
The post goes on to explain a lot about how the FamilySearch.org Family Tree utilizes dates and places. Here is an example.
FamilySearch stores each date and each place for each event in two different locations. First, it stores it in the white box where you enter the information (the “display” value). Second, it stores a “standard” date or place in the green (or yellow) bar below that. This “standard” is what helps you and others find matching records and individuals. It is a “behind-the-scenes” value the computer uses to match to a specific date in history and a specific location on the globe.
I am not going to reproduce the entire post, but I suggest that even if you do not own an iPhone, you will find the information about the way the Family Tree stores and uses geographic information informative and interesting.

One of the data points for my maternal grandmother from the Family Tree keeps coming up in Japan. Since she never traveled outside of the United States, I have often been puzzled by this. So far, I haven't been able to identify the reason for the erratic location. My strange Japanese connection didn't show up, but I did find a cousin who died in Korea during the Korean War.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Adoption Challenge to Genealogical Research - Part Two: Early History of Adoption



It is almost impossible for someone who was raised in the United States today to understand current adoption procedures without a significant dose of history. The worst possible perspective is to project today's arcane adoption practices very far into the past. The first "modern" law concerning adoption was enacted in 1851 in Massachusetts. The 1851 statute was the first to consider the welfare of the child as part of the adoption process. Up until that time, adoption was unregulated and treated the adopted child as chattel. Before going any further, it is important as a genealogist dealing with potential and actual adoption issues, to have at least a beginning understanding of the history. A fairly good summary of the history of adoption is contained in a Wikipedia article entitled "Adoption." I strongly suggest reading the entire article.

From a genealogical standpoint, this date of 1851 marks the point at which a researcher could expect to find consistent court records reflecting adoption. My own experience in this working through adoption issues relating to genealogy is that they are focused on the first one or two generations of a person's pedigree. In cases where the birth record of the adopted child was altered to show the adoptive parents as the birth parents, there is seldom a way to detect the existence of an adoption unless family records somehow indicate the possibility. For example, in 1917 a Minnesota law, for the first time,  required that all placements be investigated and began the process of limiting access to the court's adoption records. Our present focus on adoption assumes the present legal and social environment and all of the concerns and conditions imposed by these laws. There are also significant efforts in the United States to radically change adoption laws and make the process more transparent.

Prior to the enactment of the adoption laws, most orphans were cared for in orphanages or orphan asylums. The orphanages originated in Europe were cared for by the churches, if at all. Before orphanages became common, orphans almost always became homeless, slaves or indentured servants. In England and to some extent in the United States, one response to orphans and other dependent people was the creation of Poor Houses. This movement was well developed in England during the 1800s and became the dominant method of dealing with the poor and orphans.

As I mentioned above, currently the genealogical issues raised by adoption are confined to individuals attempting to identify their birth parents and as I pointed out in the first installment of this subject, one avenue open to those individuals is to take a DNA test and post the results in one or more of the online programs.

If you are familiar with the history, you will realize that there are several results that become manifest in doing genealogical research beginning with the present.

1. During the time from the present back to the early 1900s, genealogical research into adoption must deal with the reality of sealed court records and "faked" birth records. There are methods that have evolved to both locate adoption records and obtain information on birth parents. See the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki article, "United States Adoption Research."

2. During the 1800s, records concerning adoption may be difficult to obtain. Research focus is on orphanages, indentured servants, and poor houses. An adopted child may appear in a census or other record as a "farm laborer" or "servant."

3. Prior to the 1800s, an orphan would likely show up as an individual servant or laborer but there would be no way to connect the individual to his or her parents. For example, one of my great-great-grandfathers was from Denmark and family tradition implies that he was "adopted." He may have been the son of one of the daughters in the family, but if this was not the case and he was "adopted" from a relative or third party, but in either case, no records exist showing his actual parentage. In this particular case, a DNA test would not help since my only connection to this "adopted" grandparent is through maternal lines. Even with a DNA test associated with extensive online family trees, the relationship is such that isolating those relatives who may have a DNA test that would apply is very complex and as yet, few of the matches reported are for people who have family trees in the program.

To be continued.

Posts in this series:

http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-adoption-challenge-to-genealogical.html

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Long Live the Genealogy Blogs!


I recently wrote a dystopian post about the future of blogs and blogging, especially genealogy blogs. Although blogging has changed considerably, it is far from dead. There will always be those of us who think and write more than a sentence or paragraph at a time and we will keep writing. Where else can I go to write? Facebook? Twitter? Snapchat? Give me a break. These websites and others like them are the junk food of the internet. They are children standing on the playground yelling, "Look at me, Look at me."

Technology has certainly impacted communication and there are those of us who have taken full advantage of the new venues. Yes, I post on Facebook and all the other options so I do spend my time yelling on the playground. But I also spend some time in class writing my assignments. There may come a time in my life when the words stop pouring out of my brain, but I don't look forward to that time at all. Meanwhile, whether they are read or not, the words will spill out and cover virtual pages with virtual text. If I miss a day or so, it is probably because life or travel has become too complicated. But I will always return. When the day does come when the words stop, I will never gracefully retire, but I will fight to the end.

Meanwhile, genealogy goes on and on and on. Since genealogy deals with history, we are always making more of it and it will never run out.