13 April 2015

Skipping Page Two

     Thanks Lewis, for living to an elderly age.  Not that you didn't accomplish a whole lot in your life, but I appreciate that you lived long enough to be enumerated on the 1840 census.  You provided me with an ancestor that utilized the "Revolutionary War Pension" and exact "age" column.   Of course, if I'd skipped page two, I never would have seen that little fact anyway.

     There's so much information that can be found on the 2nd page of many documents.  Unfortunately it's often not clear that there is a page two.

     You do your search and come up with a document.  You get your information, download a copy, attach it to your tree, etc, and move on.  But in reality, there was a gold mine of information on the second page that you missed.  Such as the fact that Lewis Stowers wasn't just age "70 and under 80;" he was 76.  And by the way, he has a Revolutionary War Pension that you need to go looking for.

     Here's a short list of documents that you should always flip to the next page on - and sometimes keep flipping.

  • 1840 & 1830 Federal Census Records
  • Census Non-Population Schedules
  • Military Service Records
  • Military Pension Records
  • WWII Draft Cards
  • Veterans Headstone Applications
  • Ship Passenger Records
  • Naturalization Records
  • Estates & Deeds
     In general, it's always a good idea to check the page before and after the record that you've found. Even if the information doesn't pertain to your ancestor, you might find family, acquaintances or neighbors (FAN) that can help you.

     It can also help to learn more about the record collection that you're looking at.  Both Ancestry and FamilySearch will have a link to "more about this collection."  This will sometimes include a list of the enumerated information or questions asked, or even a blank form that is more legible than the actual document.  If you know what information should be there, you'll know to keep looking if you don't see it right away.

     So remember to check the 2nd page and just maybe you'll learn someone's exact age from the 1840 census too.

07 April 2015

Technology in the Library

     A few weeks back I visited the Washington Memorial Branch of the Macon County, Georgia, Library for the first time.  They have a large genealogy room there and I'd heard that it held a lot of Revolutionary War resources.

     As I was browsing books I did what I often do now: take photos of pertinent information using my cellphone.  As I sat in the isle (I didn't see the point in hauling a shelf and a half of books about Edgfield Co., SC to a table), a voice behind me asked, "You're not taking photos of the books, are you?"  I found out that the library does not allow patrons to photograph book pages.  Instead, you must make a photocopy (20¢).  I complied, but I was flabbergasted.

     The only reason I can see for this policy is to make money.  And yes, I understand that these libraries are all likely underfunded and need all the money they can make to provide services.  And the photocopy machine costs money to operate.  But to force patrons to use the copy machine if they want a copy of the book pages?  I'm sorry, but it feels greedy to me.  I hate to say that, because it's judgmental.  I don't honestly know the library's reasoning for the policy but, regardless of what the reasoning might be, I don't like it.

     Aside from the money aspect, I have to wonder what their thoughts are considering the technological aspects of their policy.  Every day more an more people, regardless of age, use smartphones.  Genealogists are buying portable scanners and tablets to make research easier when away from home.  Heck, there are cameras in eyeglasses!  The use of digital technology in libraries, archives and courthouses is on the rise. I'm not sure how long this library thinks to enforce this policy, but I just can't see it lasting long.  Technology is growing and changing so fast that there's no telling what it will look like in five years.  I'm betting this policy won't last that long though.

02 April 2015

Find One Near You

     I've been lucky with my research, in that my ancestors stayed put and that I live within a few hours drive of most of their homes.  That means that, without a tremendous amount of effort, I can access their records.  Other folks aren't nearly as lucky.  I've been working on the genealogies of a few other folks lately who live half a continent away from their ancestors.  Every day more and more records come online, but it's not nearly everything.  But there are a few ways that you can actually bring those records to you, rather than having to go to them.

     I'm surprised that I run into researchers quite often who don't know about some of these resources, so I thought I'd share them here.

WorldCat and Interlibrary Loan

     WorldCat.org "is the world's largest network of library content and services." It's a way for you to search a ridiculous number of libraries to find the book (and more) that you are looking for.

    Put in your zip code, and it will tell you the closest library to you that houses the book.  If there isn't a library near you that has the book, contact your local library and see if they can order the book through Interlibrary Loan.  Whether or not you can get the book will depend upon the policies of the two libraries, so you might try and look over the website of the library that houses the book to see their policies.  You might also find that the library will do a research request for you.

     You can search WorldCat in a variety of ways, from title and author, to subject and keyword.  Make sure you do a thorough search and, when you find something you like, use the links within that listing (author, subject), to easily find other books.

FamilySearch.org Catalogue

     Although FamilySearch has a lot of records online, but so much more in their library in Salt Lake City.  You can search their catalogue to see what microfilm they have in their vault - which you can have shipped to a Mormon Church near you to view on their microfilm machines.  You do have to pay $7.50 for each film you borrow.

    Search for items of interest in a variety of ways, including location to subject, for best results.  When you find a microfilm you'd like to borrow, click on the Film/DGS link in the blue box title "Film Notes."  From there, it's a very simple process to complete your order.  I haven't requested any microfilm in a while, but the few times I did it I found the local church volunteers very friendly.  They had a genealogy room with a couple of computers and microfilm readers.  The hours are sporadic, but not during church hours.  At my location, there was a backdoor with a doorbell and clear signage for the many non-church members who visit.

     If you haven't used these resources, please check them out.  It could save you a trip across county - although I know you really want to go anyway.

23 March 2015

Public Vs Private

     The other day I was checking my Ancestry.com hints, viewing only photos.  I was both surprised and not surprised to see almost a dozen photos suggested as hints for one of my GG-Grandfather,.  I was surprised because they were photos from my own collection, yet not surprised because this happens often.  It is frustrating because these photos are attached to my family tree and, instead of using the ancestry feature that allows users to attach photos in a way that is really a link to the original, this person downloaded the photos and re-uploaded them to their tree.

     As I said, this happens fairly often.  In some cases, it's a situation like this one, where it seems that they got the photos directly from
Ancestry.  Other times they got them from another site that I'd shared them to.  And the issue is not that they uploaded the photos, the real issue is that they aren't giving credit.

     In the case of the photos found on Ancestry, the other user has, purposefully or not, subverted a system designed to maintain provenance.   In the case of photos from other sites, the user has declined to cite the source.  Either way, it's the wrong thing to do.

     I vented a bit on Facebook and the comments indicated that many others have become fed-up with this sort of thing and now keep only private family trees.  I fully understand that they have their reasons for keeping private trees and respect their right to have them.

     At the same time, I can't stand private trees.  I view genealogy as a collaborative effort.  I make some discoveries, which connect me to another researcher.  Their family tree gives me information that allows me to make more discoveries.  All of this information is then available for others to build off of.  More and more people add to the data and, if everyone is making their discoveries available online, we all benefit.  This is how I view online family trees.  Why would I make mine private?

     There are a number of ways to share family trees online, from private trees and public trees on many websites, to truly collaborate trees at sites like WikiTree.com.  I would never want someone to do something that they are not comfortable with, but would encourage people to be open to sharing and working with other genealogists.  If we work together we can accomplish more than we can on our own.


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