Sunday, January 27, 2013

Do you get a headache while doing your genealogy?

The most common practice when attempting to resolve a brick wall is not using the proper tool. Knowing the proper tool to resolve your genealogy problem is key to solving your genealogy mysteries.

I am convinced as you do your genealogy that the answer is out there. Look at your problem in several directions. What have you done to resolve the issue in the past? What sources are available that you have not found that would help you? A common belief is if it does not exist on the Internet it's not out there. Don't get me wrong there are many excellent sources on the Internet for research, but it is by no means all of them. Let site some examples.

Alright a common one is your are looking for a birth record. You have looked all over the Internet, but have not been able to locate it. First step is to decide if it does exist. Majority of states in the US did not start keeping track of records of birth until the latter half of the 19th century. They really did not start being kept well until the twentieth century when more importance was put on keeping track. Prior to 1867 they were kept hit and miss. It really depended on what part of the country.

So you can't find that birth record, but where do I look? The first place to look is at offline sources that are in the locations where our ancestors lived. Start by working backwards. Look for the individuals death certificate. These records were kept very well and will record the date of birth of the individual. Understand it is only as good as the informant. In most cases we are going to have to validate the information in more than one source. A place that is becoming more common to find information is at the funeral home and the interment cards at the cemetery. These offer validation of the birth date. We need to find more.

Moving back towards the time of the birth event the next source is the marriage certificate. Here you will find the list of the year of birth. It became common in the latter half of the 19th century and into the twentieth century for more information to be provided. Another place is the children's birth certificates where it became common to list Mom and Dad's age at the time of birth.

Combining the first three searches with a census records search helps in making sure you are on the correct track. Proceed with caution, because a lot of inaccuracies can occur with the recording of dates, names, locations and ages listed in census records. Try to look as many census records as possible. Work from their last year of record to their first recording. In the years after 1900 you get the month included as well. Again be cautious though. Recently I did a search for a client and the individual we were looking for aged three years in ten years. Now that's a trick.

Finally take a look at the church where they attended. All denominations kept track of these records, but the quality and consistency may vary. They are worth looking for.

Remember their is more than one way to look for what you are looking for when it comes to resolving your brick walls. Not all of them can be resolved in the same way and often times the answer is in records that we did not even think of using. It is very important why you are on your genealogy journey to keep adding tools to your box. Most importantly take a look at them all and make sure that you use the correct ones to get the job done.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jobs- Where did our ancestors work?

One of the important items to pay attention to when doing research is where did your ancestors work. Did they stay current with their job? Did the job allow them to be mobile? Did other family members work in the same types of jobs?

Depending on where your ancestors were located has a large factor in their employment. The earlier you trace your family back the higher likely hood that they would have lived in a rural type setting. This would mean a completely different type of job than in the city. The majority of people would have been listed as farmers, but there were teachers, blacksmiths, doctors, preachers, and leather workers as well. Did your family participate in the same types of jobs for generations? Were they independent or did they work for others? All play important factors in understanding the decision making of our ancestors.

As we moved closer to the twentieth century and the world became a more industrialized place people moved to Urban settings. The pay was higher and the quality of life often improved. Resources were close at hand and people lived in neighborhoods. Higher likely hood of living in building with lot's of people. Way more contact with neighbors, because they were all around you. Immigrants tended to work in jobs where they did not have to speak in English and they were paid for their muscle. Was a much higher instance of people living in Ethnic neighborhoods. Was your ancestor keeping up with a current job? Did the women in the family work as well? Were they able to advance in status as time went by?

Looking at what our ancestors did for a living and where they lived provide excellent sources for further research. Work records, city directories, church,and school. Identifying occupations of your ancestors helps differentiate them from others that may share the same name. Fathers often taught sons their skills.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Even our ancestors made mistakes

Researching our ancestors with the belief that they did not make mistakes often leads us on wild goose chases in our research. Understand that people all made decisions that effected their lives both in the time period, but also for generations to come. Discovering and understanding these decisions helps us in getting more insight into our ancestors lives.

One of the first major events in a persons life is getting married. Looking at the area they lived in and understanding why they married is important in understanding your family. Where did they meet? What were some of the reasons they did get married? Did they live close? Where did their paths cross? In my own research I had families that lived in the same area for hundreds of years. It was rural Ohio and the pool of marriage candidates was small. For this reason family lines crossed several times in multiple generations. They were neighbors. Attended the same schools and church. They lived and worked together in their community. It is fascinating to look at all the various families properties and where lived in comparison to each other throughout the years. Amazed at how many folks lived right next door.

Another event in a persons life would be their job. Where did they work and what did they do? Did they switch jobs a great deal? Did they sometimes not have a job? Were they located in a urban or rural setting? Do some research on their occupations. Understand the history in the nation at the time and what effected their job decisions. My family had a history of being farmers, but in the latter half of the 19th century things changed. The family moved to the city. Previously the family had a history of being millers. When they moved to the city they worked in quarries, electric car company and eventually a gas driven car company. They lived in a neighborhood of primarily blue collar workers. They attended church and public schools. My great grandfather married a city girl. Where they met I still do not know. One of the mysteries in my family history.

Pay attention to the events in our families lives. They made decisions both good and bad just like we do. What caused them to make the decisions they did? Does it offer clues to our family and genealogy history? What were the influences? My great grandfather made decisions in his life that still effect my family today.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Information is incorrect

A concern of mine with genealogist is that they are not taking the necessary steps to verify the information they find on their family members. Have you checked all the sources that are available. This is a big reason for the creation of the Genealogical Proof Standard that every one is so interested in learning about. The GPS was set up to establish guidelines to properly verify ones genealogy. Failure to source your genealogy causes it to be a great book of fiction.

There are five rules to the GPS. The fist is completing an exhaustive search. This means checking all the records available. Not just the easy ones. The ideal is to locate three different sources that validate each fact. Depending on just a few sources does not make it correct. Understanding the difference between a primary and secondary source is key. You want to see the original source as much as possible. Don't accept a transcription as proof. Seek out the original document. Do not trust anything!

Make sure to source all in the information. Genealogist as a whole tend to be a little on the lazy side. Failure to identify where you got your information will only result in confusion when collaborating with fellow genealogist and those in the future. Identifying where you got your information helps people understand why you made the conclusions you did. If you do not paint a clear picture of your research things will be fuzzy for others.

Once you have identified some information make sure to analyse it and correlate it. Include all information discovered both good and bad. What does all the information mean? Genealogist tend to fall into the trap of using wood working tools when trying to put that square peg in a round hole. The negative information often is the correct information when weighed with the body of evidence. Don't jump to assumptions. Let the facts and good research lead the way.

Once you feel you have a good picture analyze what the conflicts you have. This is a very important step in validating your genealogy. This step results in saying yes I got everything or no I need to do more research. If you feel you have it all pulled together and it's correct you can go to the final step. If you have holes in the information you need to determine what the next step is going to be. Do I have to do more research? What records have I yet to find and are they available? With the internet today records are being made at a rapid pace. Have you checked them all? Sometimes you need to put a project on the back burner until you find more information.

The last step is to write out a proof conclusion. This is where you are explaining out why the information you have found has led you to this step. Often we are not always able to come to this step. New information is always coming out, but based on what you have found make the best conclusion you can. Make sure to include the good and the bad. Explain why it is good or bad. Write it down on paper or on your computer. Read it and make it makes sense to you. Share it with other genealogist and even those that are not. Does it make sense to them.

Remember these five steps and you will be doing excellent genealogy. It helps put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly and helps identify other pieces that may fit better. Genealogy that is not sourced is just a really great piece of fiction. Your family is not fiction they were and are real!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Medina Ohio Free Genealogy Classes

Ohio Genealogical Society
A series of FREE genealogy classes will be conducted at the Medina Library, Medina, OH, Main Branch during February and March. The classes are designed for both the beginner as well as more experienced people interested in their family history. Subjects addressed are: beginning genealogy, vital records, census records, city directories, military and church records, and wills and property records. The classes are organized by member Tom Hilberg and will be conducted by members of the Medina County Genealogy Society.

Classes will be conducted on Saturdays from 2 to 4 pm and prior registration is required. If interested in attending, send an e-mail to Specific dates and subjects are:
Feb 9th: Beginning Genealogy
Feb 16th: Census and City Directories
March 2nd: Vital Records and Immigration
March 9th: Military and Church Records
March 23rd: Probate and Court Records and Land Deeds