October 29, 2007

Primary Records are NOT always Accurate

We all want our genealogy to be accurate.

We search and search for that primary record, the one that we've been told is "THE" record to find -- a death certificate, a church baptismal record, marriage record....

But - beware! Not all primary records are accurate. As good genealogists we must consider that there can be errors. The informant (person giving the information) may not know the answers and may thus provide incorrect details. The clerk recording the information may not hear the response correctly and may enter it incorrectly. The person giving the information may lie, especially about their age.

In my own family tree, my great-grandmother's official government death registration is incorrect. Her parents' names are wrong. Since I already knew who her parents were (Isaac Vollick & Lydia Jamieson) from other genealogy sources, I was completely bewildered at first by seeing her parents given as Stephen Vollick and Mary.

Then it dawned on me - Stephen was my great grandmother's husband's first name (Stephen Peer). Mary was my great grandmother's own name. (Mary Vollick)

So I looked at the informant's name. AHA! The informant was Mary's 17 year old son. Her husband having died long before Mary, and her older children married and gone, the task of answering the official questions fell to her 17 year old son who had cared for her in her final days.

It is easy to see how the young boy, when asked by a government clerk "Father's name?" (meaning father of the deceased), would have replied "Stephen", for in fact Stephen WAS his own father's name.

The question "Mother's name?" referring to the mother of the deceased, would be answered by the boy "Mary" which was HIS mother's name.

And thus the official death registration for parents of Mary (Peer) Vollick daughter of Isaac and Lydia Vollick, is forever rendered as Stephen and Mary Vollick.

So be cautious when you encounter a primary source that simply doesn't match other reliable sources. Investigate! Think! Don't just accept the new "facts" without further legwork to prove or disprove them.

October 28, 2007

Searching Siblings in Family Tree Research

Why search siblings? You're only interested in YOUR ancestor, right? WRONG!

Researching and tracking siblings, finding their marriages, children, deaths etc can provide you with answers to questions about your own ancestor.

Let's assume you have not been able to find your great great grandfather's mother's surname before marriage. You know her first name is Mary but that's it. You find great great grandpa's death record and view it in anticipation. But sadly the informant (great great grandpa's second wife) didn't provide a surname for her mother-in-law.

You can't find great great grandpa's marriage record so no help there. But - what about a sibling? Hunt for great great grandpa's youngest sister's marriage record. Look for one of his brothers' death records. Don't overlook turning any stone available to you in your hunt for your own ancestor - remember your ancestor and his siblings shared the same parents, and those parents are your next generation back.

October 27, 2007

Why Review Old Genealogy Research?

I've been working hard lately on a McGinnis Family book. McGinnis is my maiden name and for more than 30 years I've researched the 7 sons of the immigrant McGinnis line I am interested in. I've followed the sons (and one daughter) down through the generations, tracking their children and grandchildren. All in hopes of finding out where in Ireland my great-great-grandfather was born.

This past month I've been busy entering data I had found and filed away in my overflowing McGinnis filing drawer. Yes that's right - an entire drawer is devoted to this family. I could have sworn I had covered all my bases, found every scrap of evidence there was to be found on each of those 7 sons. Census? Done. I'd sent for death records, church records, looked for obituaries, and thought about where else I might find a record of an origin in Ireland.

But as I looked over my old research (which I hadn't really looked at in almost 10 years) something jumped out at me - several years ago I had found the names of 3 of the sons in Michigan Naturalization records indexes. But I had never sent for the full record! What an oversight - although the records are not apt to provide an exact location of birth, there is a small chance they might give a county in Ireland. We don't even know that much so anything would be a bonus.

I also realized I hadn't put a few clues together - that one of the grand-daughters of the original immigrant had been living (at the age of 6) with an unknown couple and a teenage girl in 1851 Waterloo County Ontario. Re-reading the teenager's surname I saw that it was the same as the granddaughter's mother (Cokely) - and the teen was likely granddaughter's aunt. A great clue that I had not seen first time around because I had not known her mother's surname at the time. This little clue led me to research the couple the granddaughter was living with and sure enough the wife was another aunt.

Reviewing my old material gave me fresh insight into the family and another path to follow. Now I am working on a chart to show where every son (and the daughter) lived at every land record, census record and assessment record I have already found. Hopefully that chart when complete will give me better insight into the family's movements and migration patterns. This in turn might help me find my missing great-great grandpa after 1871.

October 26, 2007

Taking the plunge with Scanfest

What's Scanfest? It's something I stumbled on last month, created by Miriam Midkiff of AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors (and other blogs and websites).

Miriam organized a group of people (genealogists, family historians, archivists etc) to join her every month in scanning their family research or other important documents. That's right - everyone gets together in virtual space and scans for a few hours once a month while chatting online.

What a great way to pass the time while scanning - a task that I always put off as long as possible. With Miriam's group you get a chance to organize and preserve your documents while meeting and chatting with others who quite likely share your interests. It sounded like a terrific idea so I contacted Miriam and said I'd like to join in.

The next Scanfest will be held Sunday, October 28th from 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM, Pacific Daylight Time. In the wake of the terrible fires recently, it seems a good time to take stock of genealogy research and get those all-important documents scanned and preserved, make duplicate copies and store them safely away from home - just in case.

I'll let you know how I made out and how many documents I managed to get scanned after Sunday's meeting. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and getting some work done at the same time.

October 16, 2007

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) NEW Search Tools

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) today [Oct 15] announced three new online products to assist genealogists and family historians to access information on their ancestors in both LAC and other Canadian collections.

Chief among these is the newly redesigned Canadian Genealogy Centre website. The website makes available Canadian collections of immigration, military, public service, land and census records and provides advice and guidance to researchers. It was voted one of the world's 100-best genealogy websites by Family Tree magazine.

Two new powerful search tools are now available on the Canadian Genealogy Centre website:

Ancestors Search, developed by LAC, combines 18 genealogical databases into one search

That's My Family, developed by Bibliotheque et Archives nationales du Quebec, in partnership with LAC and supported by the Council of Provincial and Territorial Archivists of Canada.

The latter search tool accesses various federal, provincial and territorial genealogy and family history databases.

October 12, 2007

Medieval Cemetery Yields 1,300 Skeletons

A large medieval cemetery containing around 1,300 skeletons has been discovered in the central English city of Leicester, the find promises to shed new light on the way people lived and died in the Middle Ages.

The graveyard was probably used from the 12th century until the demolition of a church at the site in 1573.

"We think, probably outside London, this must be one of the largest parish graveyards ever excavated,'' said Richard Buckley, director of University of Leicester Archaeology Services.

Continue reading Medieval Cemetery Yields 1,300 Skeletons

October 8, 2007

Ships Passenger Lists Project 1624-1664 updated

As many of you know, I have had an ongoing project to reconstruct names of passengers on ships from Netherlands to New Netherland 1624-1664 on Olive Tree Genealogy for several years.

The index to this reconstruction project is at Ships to New Netherland

For those new to the Project, several primary sources were used to reconstruct passenger names (all sources are noted online) - and others continue to be found

Thanks to Peter Christoph for discussing Harmen Myndertse Van de Bogart with me, and Charles Gehring for spending his time hunting down the source for Harmen's arrival, another name has been added to a specific ship - Harmen Myndertse Van de Bogart who arrived in 1630.

You'll find Harmen's name and source references on De Eendracht

I hope others will share findings with me so we can add to this project. Please remember it must be a primary source used for proof.

October 7, 2007

Musings on Genealogy, Life & Death

A good friend was killed in an accident on Thursday evening. His unexpected death made me think about how suddenly life can twist and turn on us. John lived life to the fullest, and was on one of his introspective journeys through North America on his motorcycle when he was killed.

Losing such a good friend so suddenly made me pause to reflect on the unfinished things in life. I thought about all the half-finished genealogy projects I have on the go. The books uncompleted. The exciting genealogy finds written out or photocopied but stuffed in a drawer, not yet entered in my genealogy program....

All the unsorted and unfiled piles of paper, both personal and genealogy-related... the ones I keep saying "Gee one day I MUST get those put away..."

All the unlabelled photographs tossed into storage tubs or stuck in those dreadful sticky clear paper pages of albums of 20 years ago...

I asked my husband if he would get the facts straight if he had to suddenly write an obituary for me. Nope, he mixed up where I was born with where I lived as a child. He wasn't positive what my mother's maiden name was....

It's not the end of the world that hubby had things slightly wrong, but it occurred to me that as a genealogist, if I want it right I better do it myself. And do it now.

Yesterday I spent most of the day sorting old photos. As the family keeper of the photographs, I have photos going back to the 1860s. I have photo albums from cousins who have passed on. From Aunts and Uncles no longer with us. I'm probably one of the few people in my family who know the identity of many of the indidividuals in those photos. But have I labelled them? Nope, of course not....

This morning I started carefully writing (in pencil) on the backs of the thousands of photos I have. I removed hundreds from those photo-destroying old albums. Hubby is busy scanning them for me.

Action was a huge part of John's life. He lived to the fullest - windsurfing, skiing, playing hockey, boating, riding his motorcyle. John pushed me to start my website Olive Tree Genealogy back in 1996. I'd like to think that he would be pleased to know that even in death he spurred me on to get off my (ahem) and take some action instead of sitting around saying "one day..."

John will be missed but every time I look at my sorted and labelled photos, I'll smile as I think about him.

October 6, 2007

Minorcans to Florida 1768

Thanks to the hard work of Lucie Servole Myers, Olive Tree Genealogy has an original research project reconstructing names of colonists of Greek, Italian, Minorcan and Turkish origins to Florida in May 1768.

Eight ships sailed under the direction of Andrew Turnbull. Lucie has reconstructed the names of 431 passengers on board the 8 ships. This is a wonderful database and I owe a big thank you to Lucie for allowing OTG to publish this online for all to use.

The ships are organized in the following immigrant groups:

Passengers from Spain

Passengers from Greece

Passengers from Corsica

Passengers from Canary Islands

Passengers from Italy

Passengers from Balearic Islands

Good luck to everyone looking for an ancestor! As always, this Olive Tree database is available for free for all researchers.

October 2, 2007

National Registration File 1940-1946 (a Census Substitute)

A good census substitute is The National Registration File of 1940 in Canada

This was the registration of all people 16 years of age or olde, from 1940 to 1946. There is a great deal of information on this Registration. This is another way to
find an ancestor in that time period.

Statistics Canada holds these records and for a fee they will search on your behalf. See the explanation and an online order form