Tuesday, 23 August 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 19

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 19: Layered Citations Work Like Layered Clothing    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 19: Layered Citations Work Like Layered Clothing,”Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation and Source Usage( : acessed 17 Aug 2016).         
RE: QuickLesson 19 - Layered Citations / Penned Question
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “RE: QuickLesson 19 - Layered Citations / Penned Question,"Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation and Source Usage( : accessed 17 Aug 2016). 

Using layering is becoming more important with the proliferation of digital records on numerous websites.

We need to understand the source of any information we are using to provide evidence for our assertions.

I use the website Find My Past for research and have found records of interest in the 1939 Register. On the website I can view both the transcription and a digital image. The transcription and image may not match so it is important to look at both.

I was looking for a relative Ruth Gadsby who I knew was born in 1901 and had died before the cut off date when the register ceased to be used by the NHS. She should be there so I looked for her with her birth year.

I eventually found her with a birth year of 1910.

Here is the part of the image with the entry.

It is obvious when you see the entry how the mistranscription happened. So citing that you viewed the actual image and not just the transcription is important to the accuracy of what we record.

My second example comes from Find My Past again.
Some of the images on the website are not fully indexed and do not show up in the records when you do a general search.

If I do an A-Z search of the records for Lincolnshire here is what I saw today.

One of these record sets states Lincolnshire, Parish Registers Browse 1538-1911.
Here is what I find when I filter down to the parish of Swinstead.

However this is not the only place online where I can find images of the parish registers. The website Lincs to the Past was the first host and still hosts images from the registers. If you type swinstead par1 into the search box on the website it brings up all the registers which, apart from the post 1837 marriages, are viewable on the website.

Let me compare them.

This register does not exactly match any of those record groups on the Find My Past website. They appear to have broken the register images into smaller groups.

This register has been included with part of another to cover these events from 1780 on the Find My Past website.

This book (PAR/1/3) has been combined with the later register for marriages (PAR/1/5) as a single group at Find My Past.

Only Baptisms (PAR/1/4) and Burials (PAR/1/7) have been kept as the same record group catalogued the same as the Lincolnshire Archives. The Baptisms and Burials 1765-1780 are missing from the Find My Past website but are viewable at the other website.

Citing the records viewed on the Find My Past website is going to be extremely difficult as they do not provide the necessary archive references and have not grouped the images in the same manner as the original archive.
The only way we can cite these records at Find My Past is to state the record group where we found them on the day we searched and that the original registers can be found at Lincolnshire Archives. It is unfortunate for us as researchers that we cannot use the reference used by the archive as this is likely to be useful to others should Find My Past no longer host these images.

To sum up we must be certain with our citations to record exactly what we used. Do not include archival references unless they are explicitly stated as the organisation on the website may be different.
Many websites licence the images and may only host them for a limited time so be certain to include a date accessed and as much detail as needed to be able to find that record again.
A record found on one website may appear to be the same as another, but sometimes there were more than one copy made of the original or the original may have been copied, ensure you know what you are looking at so that you can explain any differences.

Monday, 15 August 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 18

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously?    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World?” Seriously? Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 14 August 2016).

This QuickLesson was published 9th January 2014 and the discussion of how Genealogy and Family History has been perceived by the academic world and whether it is, has or will change is not static. 

The interface between professional, academic and hobbyist in the field of genealogy can be fractious due to competing or conflicting demands. 
Conflicts due to differing perceptions do nothing but harm. 
The struggle to prove that genealogical skills need to be taught as an academic discipline when there are financial constraints and competing demands. 
Ensuring that there are standards in place and that they are observed by all involved.

Bloggers have posted about this. Thomas MacEnteeTony Proctor and more recently Amy Johnson Crow.

Whilst those who might class themselves as genealogists or family historians are possibly starting to form a more cohesive group with more online courses both paid and free (the online course run by Future Learn, created by the University of Strathclyde, last year had thousands of participants worldwide and is currently running again). 

The acceptance of genealogy as an academic discipline may not be so easy to achieve.

The skills needed to create accurate family histories are multifaceted they would ensure the graduate would have transferable skills for many occupations. 

Where many hobbyist family historians can fall down is that, whilst they may know where they obtained a piece of information, they do not always accurately record this. Sound conclusions can only be made when we take care to look at all of the information and review it with an open but critical "eye". The proliferation of inaccurate poorly documented "genealogical trees" on the internet does much to tarnish academic interests. It is in the interests of everyone that these inaccuracies are highlighted and education at all levels is paramount.

Many societies have a tradition of oral histories and until very recently "the masses" would have relied upon this. Only the elite in society could have access to, or afford, those who could write or paint. Official records only exist where law or tradition required them.
The advent of photography and other means of recording have added alternative means of passing on the information but as with any other media are prone to errors. 
Genealogists need to have the skills to know how to handle conflicts which is a skill that comes with knowledge and experience. Academia can assure that these skills are passed on by providing the education to the next generation.

This study group and others that have been hosted by DearMYRTLE, even the less formal discussions, are an ideal learning environment for all. (be they beginner or professional/ academic) 
They provide a platform for discussion and alternative ways of getting the information across to anyone and everyone.

Monday, 8 August 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 17

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Model,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 6 August 2016).    
Negative Findings / Negative Evidence
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Negative Findings / Negative Evidence,"    Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (    : accessed 6 August 2016).  

Before I start any discussion on this topic I want to highlight what I consider to be the most important point from this lesson "the extent to which we understand the language and structure of evidence analysis will determine the success of our research."

This mindmap I created shows the elements of the Evidence Analysis Process Map as shown on her website. (with additions)

We have talked about how important it is to use reliable sources and to cite the sources we have used. However if we are to do this effectively we need to know what we have and what it is telling us.

We should not overlook the obvious sources such as family with firsthand knowledge, who despite memory lapses, may have more complete firsthand information than anything written on paper.

Getting as close to original records as possible can help reduce bias caused by poor transcribing. Video or sound recordings, letters, photographs and other family memorabilia can all support our family story and can help recall memories.

We may only find sources which are distant from an event, so we need to consider the relevance of this distance, upon the reliability of the information. A person may have been a firsthand witness to an event, but as the years pass their memory concerning exact details may not be the same as it would have been, if recorded close to the time of the event.

Uncertainty regarding the informant for any piece of information casts doubts on its usefulness in building a proof which is why official signed records may be considered more useful than a family legend of unknown origin.

Our interpretation of the information allows us to use it as evidence to support our conclusion.

The best way to show is by example so I am going to show someone I came across on Family Search Family Tree who has 44 sources attached. How many of these are for this person? Can we remove some as we interpret the sources.

If we look at her christening this fits with those of her siblings and is supported by this source.
The marriage as indicated would suggest that she was still in Bedfordshire when she married in 1773.

But did she really have 33 children!

If we look at the birthplaces of these children it is not until we get to Charles Wiltshire christened in 1799 that we find anyone allegedly born or christened in the county of Bedfordshire. The family could have moved elsewhere but many of these children have no source attached or only one.

In fact Charles is the only one I would consider to have a connection to this couple.

This is one of the sources attached to this person.
She was born in 1754.

Contrast this to one of my ancestors who was the son of John Wiltshire and Sarah Ingram. 

He has 27 sources attached some are duplicates many are census records almost all of the children have more than one source attached. Even those that currently have no sources have a date and place of birth consistent with them being a member of that family.

Whilst we know that families did not always remain in one place many did. We look in that area and time period first and then spread our search if records indicate or we can find no trace. 
The "scattergun" approach can be little more than speculation. Not all records are online and we need to use those that are with caution.
I have not relied on online resources alone for my research and there is a great deal that is still a work in progress.

I have only included a few screenshots here but they should be enough for you to see what I am trying to show on the tree. If you wish to see more take a look on the website. (You will need to register for a free account if you do not already have one)

To sum up if you do not understand the information in the source and how to use it you cannot build the evidence to support your family tree.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 16

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 16: Speculation, Hypothesis, Interpretation & Proof    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 16: Speculation, Hypothesis, Interpretation & Proof,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 14 July 2016).         

For this week's lesson I want to look at some research I did and shared on another blog Worldwide Genealogy.

Before I could contemplate doing any research I had to define what I wanted to look for and why I was looking for it.

Speculation and hypothesis could be thought to be pretty much the same. But a hypothesis should be based on a source of information which we cannot as yet consider sufficient evidence of "proof".

Is not the goal of all genealogists/ family historians to discover the information and convert it in to likely conclusions. 

In this lesson there are 5 parts of the building of proof that Elizabeth Shown Mills concentrates upon " thorough research, analysis, correlation, context, and explanation ". If we ignore any one of these we risk failure in proving our hypothesis and it remains speculation. 
This does not mean that we have not proven our hypothesis whilst we continue our research, we may have found everything extant supporting our hypothesis, a sound conclusion based on what we can find will show our understanding of the process.
My "current thinking" (as Russ Worthington likes to say) may be the only conclusion I can make as other records may not have survived.

I started with a hypothesis and built upon that. Initially all I had was the personal memories of a living individual recounted years after an event.
The account whilst firsthand was telling me about others that he would not have met or had certain knowledge of their relationship. I needed to prove the connection and the records I found needed to fit both the time and place I was researching.


Ruth Ellen Gadsby, born 5 October 1901 in Gunby St Nicholas, Lincolnshire and who died, unmarried, in 1975 in the same place, worked as a cook for a family called Gladstone. The head of this family was the grandson of the Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and they lived in a house called "Lewins" at Crocken Hill, Ededbridge, Kent. She was working there in the 1950's. 
The property still exists and is advertised with some history. But nothing relevant to what I needed.

The opening of the 1939 register and its availability online provided the first record that could confirm a connection. Many mid to late twentieth century documents will not be available for decades so these records can be useful if you need to do twentieth century research for family who may not have been the householder so would not appear in directories.


The research is outlined in the blog so I will not repeat it here. 
Below is a summary of what I found.

Letter From GaryRuth Ellen GadsbyWorking at Lewins as a Cook for Gladstone's grandson
Headstone in GunbyRuth Ellen GadsbyBorn 1901 died 1975
1911 CensusRuth Ellen GadsbyBorn 1901 - 1902
Death RegistrationRuth Ellen GadsbyBorn 5 Oct 1901
1939 RegisterRuth Ellen GadsbyBorn 15 Oct 1901 Head Parlourmaid.
1939 RegisterStephen D GladstoneBorn 9 Dec 1891 Head of household at Lewins
Birth RegistrationStephen Deiniol GladstoneRegistration of Birth in Chester district Jan - Mar 1892 Birth previous quarter possible.
1901 CensusStephen D GladstoneAge 9 living in Hawarden with father Stephen E Gladstone Clergyman and his wife Ennice.
1891 Baptism Hawarden Stephen Deiniol GladstoneBorn 9th Dec 1891 son of Stephen Edward and Annie Crosthwaite (Wilson) Parish Priest
Marriage Register LiverpoolStephen Edward GladstoneClerk in Holy Orders at Hawarden. Father William Ewart Gladstone Premier of England
1844 Baptism St Martins in the FieldsStephen Edward GladstoneParents William Ewart and Catherine Gladstone. Privy Counsellor. (by H Glynne Rector of Hawarden)

So the documents show she did work at Lewins when the 1939 register was compiled and her employer was Stephen D (likely Deiniol) Gladstone son of Stephen Edward Gladstone and Annie Crosthwaite (nee Wilson) Gladstone. Stephen Edward Gladstone was the son of William Ewart Gladstone.
In 1939 Ruth was Head Parlourmaid so I cannot yet confirm that she was employed as a Cook by the family. Research for more recent employment records is required. The Gladstone Library in Hawarden is close to where I live and I need to enquire as to whether they may have records that can confirm more about her employment record.
Obtaining a birth and death certificate for Ruth Ellen Gadsby would help clarify the birth date. However it is an uncommon name and this will be an expense. A baptism record could be an alternative but they may still be with the church as this is a tiny rural hamlet.

Whilst the Gladstone dynasty is well documented proving a link to the family with reliable documents may not be easy. Had this person been a SMITH or JONES even a small discrepancy in the date of birth could have prevented a proof conclusion.
Less common names can make research easier but location, occupation, dates of events can all be used to pinpoint the correct person and relationship. 

I have researched the common surnames such as SMITH and WARD and have a WARD line back as far as the parish registers exist. 
However I have not yet researched the early ones thoroughly so I only currently have an initial
This is also going to be true for much of what I have as I, like many other researchers, concentrate most effort on the direct line and, whilst recording the existence of other members of the family, do not routinely follow all the branches.
With time not on our side we all need to ensure all our research counts. 
Good preparation is crucial and will enable us to concentrate on finding the right records to answer our research question. 
Looking for the right record, in the right place, and time period.
We need to be constantly considering whether we are meeting those five criteria of:-
  • thorough research, 
  • analysis, 
  • correlation, 
  • context, 
  • explanation

Monday, 11 July 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 15

Hilary Gadsby

13 July 2016
QuickLesson 15: Plagiarism—Five "Copywrongs" of Historical Writing    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 15: Plagiarism―Five "Copywrongs" of Historical Writing,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (—five-copywrongs-historical-writing : accessed 10 July 2016).

In this lesson Elizabeth Shown Mills discusses the possible ways that those who write may be copying the works of others. Of we fail to recognize that we are using the works of others inappropriately we may be accused of plagiarism or breach of copyright.

You will often find that I include links to the works of others on this blog, and others to which I contribute, by doing this I am acknowledging that person's work and directing readers to the original. I prefer to do this with anything I find online as it requires that I only discuss that I have found the item useful and/or what I have taken to be the message from the author. The reader can then make their own judgement on the original piece, without the possibility, that substantial amounts of the author's work are being copied to my blog post.

Earlier this year I attended a talk about copyright and how it affects me in the UK. There was discussion about fair use and who owns the copyright of a published work. Whilst it may not be relevant to many genealogists, it was interesting to note that, a blog post or other materials created as a part of an employee's occupation, are under copyright of the employer, rather than the employee. Each and every genealogist should be aware of the copyright law, that affects them, especially if we are to share our work with others.

The majority of this lesson deals with the discussion of plagiarism and copying. Taking large parts of a published work and making little if any changes to how it's presented. Taking the work of others without attribution, even be it only a small part of the complete work, is unacceptable.
If we see a work which cites an original record should we not, where possible, consult that original record rather than an interpretation.

Cite your sources, avoid copying, consult originals and be aware that whilst the facts may be shared the format of their presentation may be the creation of another.

Monday, 4 July 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 14

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 14: Petitions—What Can We Do with a List of Names?    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 14: Petitions—What Can We Do with a List of Names?” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 3 July 2016).         
"Printed Primary Sources" & Naive Trust    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “ 'Printed Primary Sources' and Naive Trust," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 3 July 2016).

Whilst there are many who do a great job in transcribing records for the rest of us to use, ESM in this QuickTip advises caution, in this post I discuss why we should do this.

In England where I have been doing my research we have many original records in our archives and to protect these there are ongoing transcription projects and many are being scanned to make digital copies. There are also many available on microfiche which is sometimes used to create scanned images.
Indexes for births, marriages and deaths were often written well after the original registration occurred if you find a typewritten index it is unlikely to have been created at the time and the handwritten indexes could be difficult to read. 

The transcription of the christening of Thomas William Thirtle.
"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch( : 6 December 2014), Thomas William Thirtle, 16 Nov 1817; citing Norwich, Norfolk, England, reference item 26 p 43; FHL microfilm 1,517,748.

Only tells us part of the story and it is only by going to the register itself that we find out more.
 "England, Norfolk, Parish Registers (County Record Office), 1510-1997," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 June 2014), Norwich St James with Pockthorpe > Baptisms > 1813-1827 > image 3 of 107; Record Office, Norwich.

Whether it is a transcription of an index or an original document the closer you can get to the original the greater the reliability.
If you are fortunate you may also find more information than you expected and frequently transcribers will only transcribe part of the information as they are expected to follow a standard format.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group

Hilary Gadsby

Sources, Information, Evidence
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Sources, Information, Evidence," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 25 June 2016).         
A Basic Vocabulary for Historical Research
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “A Basic Vocabulary for Historical Research," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (    : accessed 25 June 2016).    

Much of what we do as genealogists piecing together what we can find about our ancestors can not be "proved" in the way that science calls proof. We can never be certain that history was how it appears to us.
This does not mean that what we create will be a work of fiction. By careful choice of source, extraction of information and analysis of those pieces of information we construct a credible case to support our hypothesis.

The information contained within a single source whilst directly answering a question will invariably not be sufficient to confirm an identity. We need to take all the information we can find and put it into context. Only when we have done this can we have any certainty that the information is relevant to the question we are trying to answer.

Understanding the terminology we use in our historical research as discussed in the Quicktips post is key to ensuring that the lineages and associated family information is as accurate as possible. Many historical documents may not have survived or details regarding our family may not have been recorded. Even when we do find references, to what we believe to be our family, we need to show due diligence and consider what inaccuracies may be present both intended and accidental.

In my blog post I discuss how I started to piece together a part of my husband's family. 
It's still a work in progress with missing parts of the puzzle. 
I need to discover more reliable sources, to provide me with the information, that I can use, as evidence, to support any conclusions I draw.