Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Exploring Private Achives

So you have searched the national, state and even some county archives in your genealogical journey.  You may have a birth certificate, a death record or even a pension record.  But is this all that is available about a persons life? 

There is possibility that more informational about the person in a private archives.  Whether this was at a place the person worked for, school they attended or an organization that they were affiliated with.  Finding these resources can be more difficult but many publish how to make inquires on their websites.  Your relative many be part of a larger collection at the historical society or be in the archives of a large university. 

This falls under the "leave no stone unturned" genealogy process.

Personal story:
I found out that a great great uncle of my mine was a Catholic priest.  I had received a picture of him in a stack of pictures that got handed down from a relative that had recently died.  Some of my older relatives were able to fill in a little about him like his name, but since he had no descendants, no one was really close to him.  The most information that I found out was his name and that he was a a priest in Baltimore.  That is not a lot of information, but it was something. 

Doing research into the subject, I was able to find out that the Archdiocese of Baltimore being the oldest Catholic diocese in the United States maintains an archives at St. Mary's Seminary and University, the oldest Catholic seminary in the US.  They have an extensive archives of the history of the Catholic church in Baltimore and early America.  I send a query to the full time archivist at the address on their website.

I wasn't sure what if anything would be returned.  Within a few weeks time I received a large envelope from the seminary.  In it contained the "personnel record" for my relative which stated his ordination date and a list of every parish he had been assigned to from ordination until his retirement.  It has information about his time at the seminary as well a copy of this ordination announcement.  I was very surprised with my find.

None of this would have been known had I not looked further to a private archive.  Many large corporations have achieves of employees as well as many churches.  But if you limit yourself to only public archives you may be missing our on key elements of your family story.            

Friday, February 6, 2015

Distribution - Getting the Data Out

So in an ideal world you have your computer filled with thousands of ancestors.  You are known as the family genealogist and everyone has returned the family group sheet you sent them.  If all of the data is sitting on your computer in your den how does anyone know it is there?  This is the perpetual problem of genealogy distribution.  How do we get our data in the hands of the relatives that the data is about.  There are pro and cons to all of this which cause us to keep waiting, but if we wait forever no one will ever see our efforts.

Incompleteness factor
When dealing with genealogy there is always an incompleteness factor.  The oldest ancestor we have on our chart had two parents and the youngest descendants are starting a new generation so we live in this perpetual state of not wanting to put out an incomplete product.  On solution to this is to put out a dated document such as "The Clark Family 1843-2014".  The other solution is to have a published date on the pages so the family knows that baby Emily is missing because she wasn't born yet.

Curious but not interest
Most family members will treat your book as encyclopedia.  In that they will keep it on a shelf and reference it when they have a question but not look at it regularly.  An example, "Suzie's baby is due on March 29th, wasn't that Aunt Betty's birthday?  Let's look it up." So they appreciate your research but it really doesn't effect them daily.  It is something "nice" to pass down for them.

Getting the data out in book form
One option is to print out a "book" so that people can have it on their shelf.  The best solution would be to print it once from your software and then get copy made at the office store.  If you want to get fancy and expensive you could publish a book.  Self publishing is becoming cheaper with options like Create Space by Amazon to publish books on demand.

Use the web
Creating a family genealogy website to to have all information on the web is an interesting concept.  There are two avenues to go down if you want a genealogy of the past or a family gather space of the present.  There are factors such as information, privacy concerns or access controls.  We will cover a family webpage in detail in a future post.   A website allows for easy update and distribution. 

Data on a computer in your house no matter how complete is no good unless you can get it to the people it is about.  Finding ways to creatively get out the data can be quite challenging.  In coming posts we will explore family websites as well as family calendars that list key events in the family history.  Distribution will always be a necessary and your data will always be "in progress", so get it out in the way that works best for you and your family.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Google genealogy ... how to do genealogy searches on the Internet

Google is the most powerful web search engines ever created. It has come into the lexicon as a adjective, "just Google it". And best of all it is free for all genealogy researchers. For someone who has little experience doing Internet searches a Google could lead to few results.  But by learning a few simple search techniques, the better your results might be.

Uncommon names
The more uncommon the name the better.  So searching for John Smith will be next to impossible so you may have to go in a different direction such as John's father, children or siblings.  If John has a brother named Mortimer finding Mortimer the correct Smith family will be much easier when looking for Mortimer than solely by searching for John.  You may need to come in backwards rather than starting with who you are looking for

Dates matter
One time a friend and I were both researching our family tree.  I told him I was stuck on Henry Lewis and couldn't get past him in Wales.  He said, " I have Henry Lewis in Wales too and I have three generations past him as well."  For two days we thought we might even be related through old Henry.  That was until we get our books out.  My Henry Lewis was 1792 and his was 1850 and none of his ancestors had any names in common with mine and none of my descendants fit his chart.  So our brief time as relatives ended.  When searching Google add as much information as you can about dates and try different dates such as birth marriage and death.  All dates are important because you never know if someone is researching your relatives spouses family and only has a marriage date.

Location, location, location
Tracking down someone to a county or town can help with finding the person in a Google search.  This is may or may not help.  In my own research I tracked my ancestor with and uncommon name of Manus Boyle to the town of Hazleton Pennsylvania in 1880.  But upon further research apparently Hazleton was a popular town for the Irish as there were 6 families named Boyle there in 1880 and two of them had a patriarch named Manus.  So even when I thought I found him I had not.  I had to delve deeper and compare to other information I already had to know I had the right guy.   

So when Google searching knowing the location and adding it to the search can be helpful, but also be mindful of the area as well.  I was doing a search of a local newspaper for a relative and found a great story about his weeding and the guest that were there in the society section.  But the section was for the next town over, because that it the town where the church was located.  If I had limited my self to the town he lived in without expanding to the nearby area I would have missed the story.

Major events     
Also finding your relative based on events that might have been involved with such as a war.  Searching for there name followed by the war of a particular battle may provide you a website that list more information about them or the battle that they were involved.  My paternal grandfather was a bombardier in WWII and died when my father was young.  But through Google I was able to find a website about his unit which list every mission that he went on and what the target was.      

Rank or title
Any title that your relative had will help your Google search for them.  Identifying them as doctor or Captain will help narrow down to the person you wan to find.  So if they had a title try search for them using that title. 

Search what you want
Adding what you are looking for could also narrow the results.  Adding the term "obituary" should in theory remove all living people from your search results.

All of the above
Using Google for genealogy is still a lesser source as it deals with mostly current events and people but if you have time or at a dead end it may be worth your time to spend a few hours seeing if you can get information you do not have.  But doing it the right was will lead to more fruitful results.

Examples from most general to most specific:
Name search: John Smith
Uncommon name: Mortimer Smith
With date: Mortimer Smith 1863
With location: Mortimer Smith 1863 Spotsylvania Virginia
With event : Mortimer Smith 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville
With title: Major General Mortimer Smith 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville
With what you want: Obituary of Mortimer Smith 1884 near Richmond Virginia

This should help get started with what to search, in a future post I will discuss other syntax options within Google to get even more out of your Google search and narrow down your results.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Twenty first century genealogy in action

Beyondthedate is proud to announce a new partnership with the online academic website Udemy.com the number one provider of online education.  The online education market is booming with many topics.  From the educators that I have talked to this is the direction that education is going by users taking online specific courses to grow their skill set.

What does this have to do with genealogy?
Among the courses that Udemy offers are a few but growing number of courses about genealogy.  There are courses from experts about tracing your family tree and other courses will be added as time goes by.  I also know that for many genealogist, genealogy is not there only hobby and Udemy many be a resource they were unaware of that could help develop those hobbies as well, whether they be anything from photography to yoga to computer programming.

While the genealogy course selection are small now I know they will be growing as the Udemy platforms continues to grow.  Full disclosure I am currently in the mist of creating my own genealogy related online course through Udemy that will hopefully be done in the Spring.

For now the best genealogy courses are Everything Olde is New Again! Genealogy Clan Management which can help beginners climb their family tree and understand their records. Another great genealogy related course is Develop YOUR Customized Genealogy Family Tree Board Game which is a detailed course on creating your won genealogy board game. But feel free to browse their extensive collection of courses and topics that may interest you. 

As this partnership goes on I may mention from time to time any courses of genealogical interest(especially my own)  and place a permalinks on he right hand side but I will continue to blogging about topics of interest and how to get beyond the date to get your family story both past and present.

The two online courses mentioned in this article

Everything Olde is New Again! Genealogy Clan Management Develop YOUR Customized Genealogy Family Tree Board Game

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Knowing your milestones...the genealogist historian

My grandfather tells the story that in his father's lifetime the Wright brothers flew the first airplane and the first man landed on the Moon.  In my own lifetime there has not been a man on the moon but there has been unmanned landing on Mars and the Internet as we know it was invented.  Where my great grandfather grew up in a age of transpiration advances, I am growing older in an age of technological advances.

Being aware of the greater world and how it is changing adds depth to your genealogy.  These things have a place in the narrative of your genealogy so the future generation can know what you experience. In a narrative in my grandfathers genealogy he writes a story of how his father remembers the streetlights being lit by hand every night in the city.  As someone born after prevalence of home electricity and indoor plumbing, stories about how my relatives lived in before these things and found it normal, is fascinating.  It makes me stop and appreciate the modern conveniences that I take for granted.

Your personal milestones only become apparent in hindsight.  Technology develops over time.  If my great grandfather heard about the Wright brothers first flight, he might have thought they did something interesting, but there is no way he could have possibly conceived that it would lead to modern air travel let alone a trip to the Moon.  But all of those things happened as time passed.

Keep track of the modern world and how it is changing and note it in narratives in your genealogy so that future generations can look back and wonder how you ever survived without a flying car or your teleportation device to get to work in seconds.     

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Telegraph, Telephone, Tell Aunt Ethel

Genealogy is a two way street.  Most of the time we are going backwards looking for ancestors from the past but we must also continue to document current history as well.  People are having babies all the time and as the generations get further apart is becomes more difficult to keep up with the new arrivals.  So as a genealogist you need to have systems in place to keep tabs on distant families note worth news.   

Closeness matters
In an ideal world you would receive a announcement or a least a Christmas card from every living family in your genealogy program with an update on an wedding, graduation or births that have occurred in the recent years.  But we don't have an ideal world and when you start to get to 2nd and 3rd cousins it is not practical or affordable to send out those thing to people you hardly know.  It is easy to get information from local relative or close relatives that you see throughout the year but what about the rest.

Relying on the relations to of others
Though you may not be close to the distant relatives perhaps you are close to someone who is close to them.  A personal example is that my Uncle was closer to some of the my fathers cousins than my father.  My Uncle saw them more frequently so to get genealogy information on who was having a baby or getting married in that family who I only saw at the occasional funeral or the once in a while family reunion, I would get the information from my Uncle who what happy to share the information he received when he saw them last.

When lines break
The problem with the "relative of a relative" situation is that communication lines can break.  In my own example my uncle died.  So the news out of the cousins family ceased.  Luckily my father has a cousin on that side of the family that he sees more than I do so, he is able to get births and marriages more frequently than next funeral but not as frequely as my uncle used to deliver.  But sometimes you have to take what you can get.

"Aunt Ethel"
Many families have a central figure that always seems to have the news on everyone.  The person usually is older and has ties to multiple families.  It may be a grandmother, or a Aunt but they are the one everyone sends the an obligatory birth and wedding announcement too, as well as the most recent school picture of the kids.  As the family genealogist, you need to make it a point to call or visit "Aunt Ethel" first to see how she is doing and secondly to be able to get a hold of her treasure trove  of genealogy information both past and present. 

As I have posted before Facebook can be a genealogical resource for distant relatives.  But Facebook also has its limitation.  People generally only friend people they know.  So if you friend your 20 year old great niece, you may be the only one of her "friends" over 40 which could have some awkward things coming through your news feed if she even accepts your request.  But friending relatives that you know and are you own age could also get you genealogy information when they post about new grandchildren.

So when trying to get names down the tree rather than up, it is good to have strategic placed relatives that can give you all of the news of distant families that are also descendants of your relatives.  As the generations continue the names that you put in as babies will be having babies of their own and you need to be ready to document them as best as you can.                    

Thursday, November 6, 2014

21st century genealogy... looking forward while looking back

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In the late eighties, shortly after my grandfather retired he decide to take up genealogy as his retirement hobby.  So he purchased a new computer and genealogy software.  He had a DOS based computer which ran the Roots III software program.  He began putting all of his names, dates and locations into the software.  Through the 90's he upgraded computers and software, moving up to a windows based computer and upgrading to Roots IV and then to Ultimate Family Tree when the company that made the Roots software got bought out.  On Ultimate Family Tree he stayed.  

I recently got a call from him that his a new computer with Window 8 on it would not run the old genealogy software.  He is so use to the interface of UFT he doesn't want to learn a new software but  the old software won't work.  As an IT person, I hope to be able to discuss with him over the holidays the problem.  I have emailed him a possible solution but need to see if they worked for him.  I hope to be able to visit him to get it fixed before the new year.  

Keeping up with changing technology
I tell this story not to solicit advice for an old software but the point of the story is this: Are you keeping up with technology of the future, as you continue your family journey in to the past.  It is difficult to change to an new program once you have mastered the nuances and shortcuts of another program.  Are you prepared if your hard drive crashed for what you would do, not only for back ups, but for transferring to a new machine.  Hard drive crashes happen everyday, so we have to be prepared for them.  We must also keep up when our software is out of date.  There are various resources in the genealogy community that have been available for years, such as a GEDCOM file that should help transition to a more modern software.  But we also have to look at how is the industry leader when picking software.  And also look at the possibly that the days of buying software at a store that come with 2 or 3 CD ROMs to load the program on the computer may be coming to an end.  The world is going wireless and cloud based and software is downloaded no longer bough as it was in times past. That too comes with risks and caveats.  Trusting the cloud and having your tree online is great but also has risks to doing so with things that are not always tangible or accessible and you many not have recourse if you are not backed up with a hard copy.  Keeping all things online could wind up in you having nothing at all if the service goes down. 

Utilizing new technology
As we discussed in the post about smartphones there are millions of apps and websites for genealogies to try.  Some will be junk but some might be helpful.  This is also true about websites.  An example was that I was putting names into Google to see what might come up.  I was dealing with an rather unusual name so it was easier to sort the results.  I found a website of the survivors of a Air Force unit that my other grandfather had been a part of in WWII.  It listed all the bombing runs that he had done over Europe as well as the crew of each mission.  This was info that no one in my family had and i found in on Google.   

Depending on how much you watch TV you have seen that Ancestry.com has been putting out and ad campaign to get new users. This can be a start but it is not always as easy as they make is seem and Ancestry.com doesn't have all of the genealogy resources wrapped up yet.  So I remain neutral on if an Ancestry.com membership is right for you.  But know that there are many things you can find just perusing the Internet.  Many things that we previously only found in library are now finding their way to the Internet.  Some for free and some with a price.  You have to decide what resources are right for you and how much they are worth to you.  

If you are still finding all of your info in the library or archives (both great sources) and not looking what modern technology has done for genealogy in the form of the Internet or genealogy software and resources then you are handicapping yourself and your research.  If you still have your ten year old computer with old irreplaceable software that is not longer supported and no modern day back up of USB sticks or CDs for all of your thousands of names then you are playing with fire and all your work could go up in a puff of smoke.