Wednesday, 22 June 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 13

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 13: Classes of Evidence—Direct, Indirect & Negative    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 13: Classes of Evidence―Direct, Indirect & Negative,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 25 May 2016).              

Evidence is not what we read, see or hear in a source. It is our interpretation of what the information in the source is telling us.

If we are to interprete the information in a source we must be clear as to what we have found and how it can be incorporated.
We may refer to this as the body or wealth of evidence. This is because a single source of information cannot be considered as sufficient to support the answer to our research question.

Like sources and information we classify evidence as it helps us to reach more credible conclusions or working hypotheses.

I shall look at how I determined a date of death for my ancestor Alfred William Wiltshire.
Post 1837, in England and Wales, all births, marriages and deaths should be registered and a certificate will tell you the date and place of death for a named individual.

This information directly states that Alfred William Wiltshire died on 30 January 1911.
But does this provide enough evidence be certain I have the correct answer to my question. How can I be certain that this information refers to the person I am researching?

Can I find some other source to provide either indirect or negative evidence?

Does another record indicate that I have the correct death certificate?
Is he recorded in the 1911 census?

Here we have his widow and the son mentioned on the death certificate is also in the household. The address also fits with what is recorded so this census helps to indirectly answer the question.

I also have a burial record found in the parish register for West End which gave a burial date of 2 February 1911. On the marriage certificate for his daughter its states that he is deceased.

Type of information
Type of Evidence
Death Certificate
1911 Census
Burial Register
Marriage Certificate

Research is not always this straightforward and this second example shows that we cannot always get the answer we want as easily.

I could find no trace of Eliza Clarke in the 1911 census so had she died in the 10 years since the previous census?
A death registration for an Eliza Clarke was found in the registration district where she had been living with her husband George and I had found his death certificate and burial near to where they were living.

The death certificate arrived and what did it state? It was not for the same Eliza the name of the spouse and the place of death did not fit.
Where was Eliza? Was she still alive? Had she remarried?

A possible marriage was found 

and another search of the 1911 census reveals

so when did Eliza die.

Thorough research of this family has broken down what could have proved to be an obstacle. The daughter mentioned on the death certificate was her eldest. Both mother and daughter had several surnames during their lifetimes but the information found in various documents has helped to pull it all together.

Type of information
Type of Evidence
Death Certificate Eliza Clarke
1911 Census
Marriage Registration
Death Certificate Eliza Elliott

Monday, 13 June 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 12 and Following Up

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 12: Chasing an Online Record into Its Rabbit Hole    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 12: Chasing an Online Record into Its Rabbit Hole,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 25 May 2016).     
Following up on QuickLesson 12
Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Following up on QuickLesson 12," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 25 May 2016).         

I have found an image of a record of interest at a website. What exactly have I found?

Unlike the lesson on the website I am not going to discuss an online record. The reason being that my research in England started before you could find records online although much has been added in recent years. We still rely to a great extent on documents we need to order or visit an archive to view. 

When we do get a document what do we see?

Certified Copy of an entry in a register held at the General Register Office issued 24th April 2003. This appears to be a photocopy of the entry and the writing is all the same. The event took place in 1869 in Swinstead Parish Church.

Certified Copy of an entry in a register held at Oakham Register Office issued 16th December 2002. This has been handwritten by the Superintendent Registrar who signed on the date of issue. The event took place in 1893 in Empingham Parish Church.

Certificate of Registry of Birth issued 21st February 1902 by the Registrar for the Sub-District of Saint Mary Extra the Entry No 356  in Register Book No 32 for a birth of 29th January 1902. 

Certified Copy of an entry in a register of Deaths held in Stamford typewritten and issued 3 April 1951 the day of registration of a death on 31st March 1951.

Whilst all of these documents were created by officials are they all the same.
How much would you trust that the information in the document is correct?
Do you understand why, how, who, when and where they were created?

Three of these documents state they are copies. Would you trust any of these more than the others? If so why? 

Whilst the final example is typewritten it was created on the date the event was registered and signed by the person registering the event.

The third example states that a birth was entered into the register and tells us the date of birth and who was born. It was written by the person registering the birth on the date of registration. However there is insufficient information in this record to confirm a link to a family. This is what we call a short certificate issued for free.

Both of the other certificates were created well after the events were registered. Both may be flawed. 

The handwritten copy could have transcription errors if the original was difficult to read. (I tried to view a copy of the church register which had been filmed onto microfiche, either the original or the microfiche were poor as I was unable to determine any of the writing so will aim to view it elsewhere when I am able.) 
The first example is a photocopy, so you may falsely believe, it could not have a transcription error. However the registers held at the General Register Office are not the original entries. Every three months, at the end of March, June, September and December, the superintendent registrars send a copy of each entry of birth, marriage, and death registered by their office in that quarter, to the Registrar General in London. 

Understand what you have before you. It may be the best you can obtain but be aware that an item may not be as close to the original as it appears.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 11

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 25 May 2016).

The FAN Principle referred to in this lesson is looking at friends, associates and neighbours to help find information pertinent to the person we are researching.

Common names can be a particular problem. I have the surnames SMITH and WARD in my husband's family and ROBERTS in mine.
However some surnames can be a problem in particular localities as many are what we call locational surnames and were adopted from the place where the family lived when surname usage started.

I have recently started a One Name study of the surname ROSLING and I shall use an example from this.
The origins of the family I have been researching appear to be in Lincolnshire, England, as far as the current level of research in the UK has shown. 
(My research is at an early stage and earlier records may uncover different origins as I am aware of this surname elsewhere in Europe and it could have been introduced to Lincolnshire from an early invasion)

The name Peregrine Rosling would not be considered to be a difficult name to research as both first and surname are not common. However if you know the family the first name Peregrine is one that has been used by several generations.

This shows the results of a general search for this name at Find My Past

Peregrine Rosling born in Swinstead, Lincolnshire, England has been particularly problematic to follow.There are 2 persons who show on the census records with the same year and place of birth. 

How do I distinguish who belongs to which family?

I have looked at the other census records 

This Peregrine has a wife Eliza who was born in Morton Lincolnshire and appears to be living in the same house with Ann and Edward Rosling could they be close relations.

This Peregrine has a James Mettam widower living with him and his wife Elizabeth he is described as Father of Peregrine and Elizabeth was born in Swinstead. Was his wife Elizabeth Mettam?

The registers held at Lincolnshire Archives have been scanned and digital images are now available to view on the Find My Past website.

Looking at the Baptisms for the parish of Swinstead this is what I have found 
Parish Baptism Register 1813-1871 Swinstead, Lincolnshire
Page 18 No 143 13 Feb 1825 Peregrine son of Peregrine and Ann Rosling Swinstead Labourer
Page 17 No 136 27 June 1824 Peregrine son of Robert and Sarah Rosling Swinstead Farmer

So the first Peregrine could be the son of Peregrine and Ann Rosling?
What was his wife's maiden name?

It is likely that both marriages were registered in the Bourne registration district as all these birthplaces and residences are in this district.
Fortunately Lincolnshire has had many of the marriages transcribed and the indexes can be downloaded. (This link may not be working but I have a copy I downloaded)

I have extracted those of interest and they can be found here.

So how do I confirm I have the correct Peregrine in each family as I now have 3 of them marrying in Swinstead within 10 years. Can I find the one who married in 1846 in the 1851 census and where his wife was born.

So I have discovered the maiden name for each wife and where the wife was born. Each Peregrine had a father with a different first name so I can now have more confidence that I connect each of them and any descendants to the correct family.

Birthplace of Spouse
First name of Father
Christening Date
Name of Spouse Father
13 Feb 1825
Charles Wilson
27 June 1824
James Mettam
Elizabeth Jane
Castle Bytham
Robert Glenn

When I have done more work on my one name study I will be able to piece together more about how these families are related. The older Peregrine has not been found in the register of baptisms for Swinstead.

I have started to explore other parish records for this area for information.
Every piece of the puzzle is important to ensure we are looking at the right person in that record. 

I have further work to do so that I can discover more about the family of Ann the wife of Peregrine and mother of the younger Peregrine. Having discovered her maiden name and birthplace I find there are at least 2 possibilities for her baptism. Determining who the possible siblings are and what happened to them may help me discover which baptism and family are most likely to be her. I suspect this will involve a lot more analysis of what the records show and I may need to work with unfamiliar records but understanding the importance of who is in the community will help me pull together the clues.

Monday, 30 May 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 10

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 10: Original Records, Image Copies, and Derivatives    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 10: Original Records, Image Copies, and Derivatives,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 25 May 2016). 

This lesson discusses the sources we use, to find the information, to assist us in constructing the evidence we need, to prove our assertions.
We use various records and we need to be aware of how much weight we should give to each one that we find. 
Is a transcription worth as much as a photocopy?

For my first example I would like to show you some digital photographs that I took in 2005.

These were taken in Southampton Archives 14th October 2005. The first shows the index card which helped me find the original document. This card also mentions the page 76 which is the second image here. Unfortunately I had cut off the top of the page in this photograph. But I did take more photographs.

If you look at the top of the page it mentions both page 72 and page 79. I missed this whilst I was at the archives but because I had taken the photographs I was able to ask them for a digital copy of the other page. It did not add much to what I discovered but I now had the complete record.

Given the amount of information in this document I decided to make a transcription of the examination of Mary Eley which can be found on my family blog.

So to sum up for this one record I have used an index, original record, made a digital photograph and transcription of that original.
Which of these would you trust if you only had one of them to provide the information?

For my second record selection I would like to consider the marriage records in England and Wales after civil registration was introduced.

Unless we know exactly where our couple married we will rely on the indexes created by the General Register Office which can be searched online. 
FreeBMD is a free website which is transcribing these indexes using volunteers.

This image shows the results of a search for a marriage of George Clarke in the Hartley Wintney district in the September quarter 1874 the only other person on that page in Volume 2c was Elizabeth Perrey.

This website also has images of the index available so that any search results can be checked against the image used for the transcription you just click on the symbol as instructed to reveal the scan.
The indexes however are not complete and the images can be difficult to read. It can be a very much a guessing game with common names in densely populated areas. 

Once you have your index entry you then apply to the General Register Office for a certificate or more correctly a certified copy of an entry in the register that they hold.

The certificate issued by the General Register Office.

The register held by the General Register Office is a copy and not the original.

The person officiating at the marriage, if it took place in a church, would make 2 copies one for the church and another for the registrar.

This image downloaded from the Ancestry website is of the Register held at the Surrey History Centre which would have been the register the church held.

Whilst the information in the certificate and the scanned copy of the register appears to be identical, in this case, there is still the possibility that an error may occur whilst transcribing the record to be kept at the General Register Office.
Careful study of the handwriting reveals the clues.

Hand written copy of a Marriage Entry issued by a local Register Office.

I have a few handwritten certificates, issued by the local Register Office, who hold one copy of the original registers. However these may be prone to transcription errors unlike the marriage entries which were scanned or photocopied. 
A handwritten certificate issued at the time of the event, such as that shown below is not a transcription, and may be treated as an original record.

If those photographs were taken by someone else would I know if something had been altered? 
Can I rely on the digital copy of the page I missed that was sent to me?

How reliable are the indexes and transcriptions we use?

I often have to correct incorrectly transcribed records from the well known websites. I can only do this when a digital image is available. What if there is no digital image available?

Not one of these examples on this page is a "true original". I could have adjusted the photograph or scans.

Elizabeth Shown Mills has discussed that the records might be considered to fall into two categories.
  • formats that preserve the original content (and sometimes the form); and
  • formats that process both the form and the content.

Quality issues can come into play when we are unable to read a document.

The handwritten marriage certificate, shown above, has a name of a witness which is inconsistent with my research. I wished to confirm my suspicion that the name had been mistranscribed. I attempted to view a microfilmed copy of the register. However it was too faint and I was unable to read the entry.

Was this due to poor filming or is the original unreadable? 
Has the copy held by the registrar deteriorated or was it a poor copy?

When we evaluate our records we look at them in context: 
  • who 
  • when 
  • how 
  • why  
  • where 
are the important words we need to consider.

We do not cite the original record alone unless we used the actual record. 

We need to include the format and where we found it or who supplied it.
e.g when I cite a certificate I have for my English research I state whether it is the one issued at the time of the event or who issued it and when it was issued if I have obtained a copy. 
The type of copy should be noted as this can have a bearing on the accuracy.

If we are aware of what we have before us, citations can be built, in such a way, that they explain why we have used the information in the way that we have.  
Making analysis and writing our proof much easier.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 9

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 9: Census Instructions? Who Needs Instructions?    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 9: Census Instructions? Who Needs Instructions?” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 22 May 2016).

Do you read instructions? 
Or are you one of those who thinks they know how to do it and then when something doesn't fit goes to the instructions to see how it should be done.

I started to research in the days when the only census information on the internet was the transcribed 1881 census at Family Search. If you wanted to see anything else or find anyone you had to use indexes compiled by a local family history society. The only way to see an image was to go to the archive or Family History Centre to find it on microfilm.

Today viewing a census page and obtaining the information from several censuses can be done within hours or even minutes. But do we understand what the record is we have before us. Why was it created and by whom, what were they expected to do and how did they do it.

In my research I have used census results in England and Wales and in preparation for this study group I decided to find out more about these and give some suggestions for anyone not familiar with them.

I thought I might have to do some searching and initially thought that The National Archives might have more on their website. However I found another website had all that I wanted and more.

On this website they also have images of the 1911 Census Schedules which include instructions on how the form should be completed.

These formed one side of the form and the other side was to be completed by the householder.
Another site which has more information is the Guide to Census Reports. The particular guide of interest to genealogists is that detailing the history as it helps us to understand the records and the reason they exist.

Whilst census records are a mainstay for 19th century research they did not exist prior to this and we need to consider what alternative records we may use.

The range of records available to assist our research is vast and we cannot expect to understand but a small proportion of why these records exist. 
We need to understand that to make best use of them we need to discover 
  • why 
  • who 
  • where
  • when 
  • how 

We cannot fully understand the society that our ancestors lived in. 
However researching can improve our understanding.

No analysis of the information in a document can be considered thorough if we do not know exactly what we are looking at in that document and the circumstances that required that document to exist.

Birthdates could have been written in a bible if you could write, because there was no official way of recording it, and it was a good way of remembering the date when you had a large family. 
Once official records existed, some may have continued to record in their bibles, but others, chose not to as, they now had an official piece of paper. 

Whilst genealogy has no set of instructions we do have guidelines which if we choose to follow will help us build our case like the castle in my previous post rather than the priory.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 8

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 8: What Constitutes Proof?    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 8: What Constitutes Proof?” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 4 May 2016).

Genealogy, like many other disciplines, has to acknowledge that just because something has been recorded, be it, written, spoken or visual, does not automatically make it truthful or accurate. 
Incorrect information may have been recorded for any number of reasons. 
Alterations can be made, even in official documents, which means that the information contained in a source may not reflect the truth.

In this lesson, the author, explains how genealogical proof is a process of building or assembling the evidence required.

When a structure is built we need to take care to build it correctly so it can stand the test of time like the castle in this photograph.

Lindisfarne Castle

If we fail to maintain the structure or do not consider correctly what we need to correctly build it initially we could end up with something similar to this second photograph.

Lindisfarne Priory
So what things do we need to consider in order to build a robust proof.

Elizabeth Shown Mills suggests we need 11 basics in building our proof.
These key words sum up those points.
        1. Thorough
        2. Thoughtful
        3. Careful
        4. Unbiased
        5. Accurate
        6. Knowledgable
        7. Skilled
        8. Creative
        9. Critical
        10. Logical
        11. Well-reasoned
If all of these come in to play it would be reasonable to assume that any beginner would be unlikely to have all the skills needed to produce a well crafted proof. But none of these is unsurmountable and the skills and knowledge can be acquired through practice and education. 
Many of these skills may be taught in school and there has never been a better time to attain the knowledge of what resources are available in order to carry out thorough research.

Do not expect the answers to your research questions to be found in a single document, if an answer is there, consider how you confirm it is correct.
Many things require interpretation, it may be that any conclusion is just the best inference drawn from the resources currently available. We must always be open to changing our interpretation if further evidence is found.

Being thorough does not solely mean finding lots of sources, it also applies to how we look at what we have found. We need to consider, each of these words, each time we look at information, if we are to interprete all of the evidence we have.

It is almost certain that each of us at some stage in our research have gone back to a document or individual in our research to discover that due to a lapse in applying the basics we have missed or misinterpreted something.

I had mistakenly assigned the wrong parents to one of my husband's ancestors Richard Ward. There were 2 Richard's in Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire, England. One christened on 6 Jun 1813 son of William and Catharine and the other on 25 Jun 1809 son of Catherine Ward which I now believe to be the correct Richard. The year of birth from the 1841-1871 census returns varies between 1809-1811 and the place of birth of Mary his wife is listed as outside Leicestershire, Marston Lincolnshire or Leicestershire, Muston, Leicestershire and Harston, Leicestershire on the census returns. I had failed to note the earlier christening fitted the information from the census records and that the Richard christened in 1813 had married a Sarah and moved to Harston, Leicestershire. Subsequent research has found Mary, whose maiden name was given as Gray at marriage and in christeninng records for some of their children, was herself christened in Marston, Lincolnshire. 

To sum up, each and everyone of us should keep in the back of our minds whenever we evaluate our sources, am I involving those basics in reaching my current conclusion.