Friday, 31 July 2015

Week 5 Cycle 3 Genealogy Research Toolbox

Sitting in my mailbox when I got home today was the email from Thomas MacEntee about the tools for genealogy.

When I got a new desktop computer I did not have a spare copy of Microsoft Office so I decided I did not need it. 
I would use Google Docs more and if I do not want to upload something I use Open Office, which I installed for free. 

I have started to use the ability to add links to webpages. 
I think that for this week's task of building a genealogy toolbox this will make it so much easier and I will be able to ditch most of the browser bookmarks. 

I have started a new Google Sheet for this and have a tab for each topic as listed in the example given by Thomas MacEntee. I will add in the resources I use for my research, which may differ from those he uses, due to the concentration on English rather than US research.

Eventually I hope to combine as much of the online sheets I have created for genealogy as possible provided they do not create an unwieldy document.

Some researchers may find it easier to use Evernote to create their Toolbox. 
I am trying to consolidate what I use and have not yet got into the habit of using Evernote to store my links. 
I may change my mind but my lists should be easy to move if I need to at some later date.

What do you use? 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Plan of action for Genealogy Do Over

Like many others I have found that the organisation can take over the whole process. 

So here is my plan of action.

  • I am starting a tree from scratch putting in the family I know. 
  • Then I will add the information from close family. 
  • The documents that I have for these individuals comes next. 
  • Then to set up research goals in a log. 
  • Using a research log is my biggest challenge. 
  • If I know when and where I found a record that I already have, I will document it in my research log, to avoid having to repeat the work.
  • Certificates and digital images are dated and I started to date the notes from research trips. 
  • Some of the early stage work which cannot be reproduced like family interviews I will have to give an approximate date. 
  • I have finally decided on a system that I hope will work but I have changed the way I am going to implement the system. 
  • Create the files as I add the information to the tree. 
  • Import the things I need to into the new system and discard the duplicate (but only when I am sure that I have a backup). 
  • Back up the new tree as I build.
Before I started to reorganise my Genealogy I had lots of duplicates on my computer. I hope that I will reduce these by removing all copies other than the original and any enhanced copy. I scan images in tif format but they are easier to upload as jpeg so keeping the original and a copy as a jpeg in my project file should work.

I have decided on a system that will help with citations. Digital images will be stored based on their provenance. I hope to have everything in a digital format as physical items can be photographed if not scanned. My physical archive will consist of originals and anything I want as a physical backup. This should eventually reduce the amount of storage space needed.

Online and local backup of everything is essential and how I do this will need to be reviewed regularly.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Too Many Distractions

Are You Like Me Finding it Difficult to Complete things.

I frequently start to do things and then find myself doing something else other than what I started out doing and totally forget to do the thing I originally wanted to do.
This is particularly true when I turn the computer on to do something, The same can be said for the other devices my phone and kindle. As soon as the internet is connected those messages start coming in along with the emails.
I seem to spend more time reading and responding to messages and less time doing the tasks that need doing both at home and work.

Unfortunately I do not have any magic answer to how to avoid these distractions. It takes time to weed out the unimportant from the most do now and the one that can be left till later (but then never get a second look), you cannot rely on the system to highlight what may be important.
The quantity of mail/post that come through the letterbox (in the mailbox) has dwindled, although we still get the unwanted flyers delivered by the mail service (the mailing preference service cut out much of the unwanted mail), but I am sure the quantity of other messages has more than made up for this.

Joining websites to connect with others in the genealogy community has led to much of this but is not the only reason. As soon as you buy something or show an interest in something you get bombarded with the marketing emails, most of which never get read, banking is done online and much of the news updates I read are the same.

So as someone who finds it difficult to finish things, how do I discipline myself to restrict myself to the important things. Calendars can be useful especially those with attached to do lists and reminders, but you do need to look at them everyday. The worst distractions can be the addition of new websites or datasets for genealogy.

I have been trying to organize my genealogy information for some time now as some of my earlier posts will testify. When Thomas McEntee announced the Genealogy Do Over I thought here is my chance to really get organized with the help of others. Life, a genealogy conference and WDYTYA live all added to the excuses for not getting this past first base, with the start of Cycle 3 I really must decide whether I have my priorities right.

My first priority is to decide what time I have available and how I am going to use that time. Get the balance right between work, family and pastimes.
Plan time into my day for the things I want to do and also the things I have to do and don't take on more than I can manage.

Then maybe when Cycle 4 starts I will be commenting on my progress and adding to the distractions for other researchers.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Advantages of having an Online Collaborative Tree.

I thought I would share with you something that happened this week.

I have gradually been adding ancestors to the Family Search Family Tree and follow any changes to direct ancestors.
I noticed that someone had added an image to one of my ancestors which turned out to be a copy of a marriage certificate.
As this was her second marriage and I descend from the first marriage I had not sent off for a copy of the certificate, so was pleased to be able to confirm some of the details.
Marriage certificates are not cheap so I decided to contact the person who added the image and say thank you. I also thought that maybe they could have a cousin connection.

Today (2nd July) I received a reply and although we have no genetic connection, as this individual is a descendant from the first marriage of the husband, it is interesting that we have both found the information contained within the certificate to be of value in establishing the father of an ancestor. The first marriage for each party took place prior to the father being named.

In the 1861 census my gt grandfather is to be found in the same household as this person's 2 x gt grandmother. The following year she is marrying in Salt Lake City, Utah.  
She appears to be one of the Utah Pioneers. 
Her name was Huldah Ponton and she was baptized in Warminster, Wiltshire, England on 17 March 1834. Someone on Find a Grave  has entered her birth as London but this does not fit her census record and the fact that both her parents were born in Warminster. I have not been able to find any passenger records for her or her sister Eliza who appears to have married in Salt Lake city in 1857. A third sister also appears to have gone to Utah but exactly when is uncertain.

I would be interested in finding out more about how they traveled all the way from Wiltshire to Utah. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Starting Over


 I am going to be joining with a number of like minded genealogists with a common goal.

Our main aim is to construct a family tree that is well documented and that we can leave for others to build upon, rather than something that has to be confirmed because the information required to support the tree has not been recorded or has been poorly documented.

So we are going to set out to ensure that the information we have has been fully evaluated and recorded so that others can follow what we have done and repeat the research if necessary.

In preparing for this I need to define some ground rules. 
This is my current list.
  • Organization of what I have already collected.

I have been trying to do something along this line for the last two years and have already started to reorganize how I store my digital information. I originally started this because I wanted to have my information stored on my computer in the same way I was trying to get my paper records and photographs organized. 
I have been trying to use a colour coding system similar to that described by Mary Hill, who did a Legacy Family Tree Webinar about this in April, the system Mary describes is supported by the Legacy 8 Software program.
  • Collecting information so that I can easily incorporate it into my system.
I have started using Evernote to collect information and I want to put this to more effective use so that it is easier to find digital information that I have collected. I have also used One Note and I need to evaluate whether I want to use this alongside Evernote.
With more use of devices such as my phone and tablet I have also been using Cloud storage systems. Do I use just one or several providers?

  • How do I record what I have found?
What software do I use to record what I have found? 
I have been a long term user of Family Historian
Do I stick with this or are there features of other programs that I would find useful? 
I have Family Tree Maker for syncing with my Ancestry trees and have just bought Legacy 8 to try out its citation capabilities and possibly other features.

  • How do I evaluate the information I have found?
I have Evidentia to help me analyse my sources which I intend to put to good use.

  • Where do I start my research?
Do I start by evaluating what I have? Yes

Some of the personal information I will not be able to reproduce, so I need to ensure it is fully and accurately recorded and evaluated.

I shall start as a newbie and gather together the information I have on close family members.

I need to build from a solid base ensuring that each source is a single entity and not a derivative of another source.

I will probably add to this list as the comments of others get me thinking.

As someone has already said I need to start as a beginner, but with the knowledge I have now, rather than the knowledge I had when I was starting my research.

One thing I have already done is set up a folder in my Google Drive for anything I think may help me with my decisions and implementation.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

3-2-1 Cite Challenge July

So after DearMYRTLE did a Wacky Wednesday hangout showing how easy it was to help with indexing at Family Search and with the Worldwide Indexing day in the offing I signed up to start indexing. I have tried to keep the post short but 1 paragraph per project was as short as I could manage.

3 Projects

US, Mississippi—Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850–1892, 1908–1957 [Part A]

US, Florida—Obituaries, 1980–2014 [Part C]

UK, Manchester—Parish Registers, 1787–1999 [Part A]


Although this challenge only required the submission of 2 batches I have to date submitted a total of 724 records and over 20 batches.
The Enumeration of Educable Children was a typed document easy to read but after arbitration I realised I had not read the instructions for the project thoroughly and included surnames for children which were not specified in the document.
I tried an English batch which was marked at advanced and struggled as it was handwritten and appeared to be written in Latin. I returned this batch for someone more experienced. The other English batch was a beginner's level and these are handwritten on pre-printed pages. Some have a birth date and a baptism date recorded on the page which could cause confusion. I have feedback on some entries including one where I thought a name should be Ritchie but because the t was not crossed it read as Rilchie it has been arbitrated as Ritchie.
I have submitted several different batches of obituaries and they can all be different. Even within batches each image may have variable amounts of extractable data. The biggest problems I had with obituaries are maiden names for women, or a sentence such as Lynn wife of John Snow should Lynn be recorded with the surname Snow or just the first name.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group 2 Chapter 7 Homework

Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 6. 

[Book available from the publisher at 

Chapter 7: Genealogical Proof Standard Element 5: The Written Conclusion

This is the point at which we know whether we have fulfilled the requirements of the other elements of the genealogical proof standard.

We cannot write any conclusion until we have an answer for our research question.

The written conclusion will need to pull together the other elements to show that we have met what is needed to prove our answer.

Proof Statement

Straightforward answers which require no resolution of conflict and can be answered by direct evidence from reliable original sources may be answered by the use of a proof statement citing all relevant sources. A statement should be clear and concise and is often included as part of a longer discussion such as in a written family history.

Proof Summary

If an answer requires more explanation than a single sentence or short paragraph it is considered to be a proof summary. This may require explanation for conflicts in the supporting evidence.

Proof Argument

When you get to more complex cases where the evidence is not direct and inference is required it is necessary to write a proof argument which may require piecing together complex information to make a case for the conclusion.

Clear Writing

However we write a conclusion we need to ensure clarity to avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding.
The research process should not be part of the discussion. We should only use the present tense for items or persons still in existence, care should be taken not to mix tenses or personalise with the use of I or me.

These points are discussed in more detail in the book. 
Whilst it is important to get the conclusion right, we should not stop ourselves from writing conclusions based on our current level of knowledge.

You may feel that your conclusion would benefit from that extra piece of information, but if you are not in a position to obtain that source of information at present, then write something based on what you have and include a note that you think something may, change or reinforce your conclusion. 
If something was to happen, you will have left your work so that someone else could continue and follow your thinking.
Having lots of sources and no conclusions is not helpful to anyone.

As we reach the end of our Study Group discussions, we should all aim to get those proof statements written.

Start your proof summaries where there is conflicting evidence.

Determine what needs that further analysis and how can it be broken down into easy chunks.

You cannot do everything at once, long proof arguments can be broken down, into smaller statements and summaries, then brought together to build the argument. 

We should approach our work in this way.

Otherwise we can overwhelm ourselves with the quantity of time and effort required.

Start small and gradually make bigger.