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. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 7

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 7: Family Lore and Indian Princesses    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 7: Family Lore and Indian Princesses,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 4 May 2016).

This lesson deals with the stories that pass down through the family.
These can either be backed up by the evidence or totally refuted.
Whatever we do we must be sure that the person we have found is the one we want and not just someone with a similar name.
We must also ensure that we look at all credible sources for the time and place we are researching.
If we miss that there is another person with a similar name, or don't consider them in our analysis, we will reduce the credibility of our research.

Stories get passed from one generation to another and as each person passes the oral history it can change and even become a totally different tale.
Oral history should not be dismissed as it can help us to deal with conflicts and changes from one record to another. 
Within my own research I have been told why a living person uses a different name to that recorded on the birth certificate. 
Sometimes social attitudes can be such that the truth is not recorded. During wartime many children were conceived whilst the husband was away and at least some of them will have been registered with the husband's surname. Children born to unmarried girls may have been brought up as a younger sibling by the grandparents.

Many like to believe that they are descendants of nobility or that there is a connection to someone with money. But finding a document does not mean that it is one that relates to your family. Does the information fit with what you already know or are there inconsistencies. Don't wait for someone else to point out your conflicts resolve them, if you can't explain them, highlight them, and think about how you may find out more so that you can resolve them. 

Only this last week I made contact with a third cousin who told me “ Joseph George Robbins was born on the 28th December 1887 in Warminster, Wiltshire. He left Warminster and went to London, became a window cleaner and then got a job as a waiter at The Strand Hotel in London.  He met Edith Fuller who later became his wife. Joseph travelled to New York and got a job as a waiter at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  At some point he sent for Edith and she obtained work in the hotel as a “hat check girl”.  They married in New Rachel, USA. Edith became pregnant and was sent back to stay with her mother in England. Violet Georgina Robbins was born on 5th June 1916.Grandfather also worked on ships as a chef and a waiter working for the Orient line and went to Australia on the Orantees and my aunts could remember he visited Fremantle, Adelaide and Brisbane. ”
I am now in the process of confirming the details.

Transcriptions can be easy to find but I always like to confirm things with originals or digital images.
The marriage transcription is on Family Search and here is the citation
New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 16 May 2016), Joseph Robbins and Edith Fuller, 21 Feb 1913; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,613,708

I have also found possible passenger lists for both of them travelling to New York she left on 12 February 1913 and he on the 4 December 1912, however the occupations do not fit with those I have been told about, and the Joseph on another ship leaving Southampton on the 11 March 1914 could be him as he is listed as a waiter. She is possibly following in April 1914 on the Olympic.
Did he go out in 1912 trying to find work and then end up doing something else?

Why did they go back to England after their marriage and return on different ships?

The information that is on the passenger lists is never enough to be certain that you have the correct person(s) particularly with common names.

I have found a record card CR10 which shows his Merchant Navy service on the Orontes this has a photograph of him on the card. (see link to Wikipedia page for SS Orontes)
Another researcher added some family photographs to their Ancestry tree in 2009 and the person on the CR10 matches the person in those photographs.

I have found a website for the Waldorf Astoria and believe there may be records in the New York Archives but I will probably have to wait and see if they become available online. 
I also need to check out the newspapers for any information.

Since Joseph and Edith were both born, and also died, in England, I might never have thought to search elsewhere for their marriage. 
Family stories can be useful but we need to be careful to follow up our hints with good documentation.