23 June 2008

Another item for my wish list at Ancestry.com

One of the neat databases at Ancestry.com is the 1925 Iowa state census, which includes names of parents, including maiden name of mother.

The database allows for searches on parents' names. The only drawback is that soundex searches are not possible on the names of the parents, only on the name of the enumerant.

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Connecting the Right Sources to the Right Events

I've been playing with Ancestry.com's online trees.

I entered in a bit of information on my wife's Freund family, including Conrad Krebs (b0rn 7 Oct 1818 in Goldbach, Bavaria) who married Margaretta Freund. This family lived in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa, after immigrating in 1854.

I entered in Conrad's date and place of birth from his obituary. I realize an obituary is a secondary source for a date/place of birth, but right now it is all I have.

Ancestry did an "automatic" match for Conrad and found many things that were misses, but it did find him in the 1870 and 1880 census. I attached these entries and images to Conrad, making certain not to attach the census to his 7 Oct 1818 birth in Goldbach. Yet the program insisted on connecting the 1870 census to that date of birth.

Problem? Yes. The census gives an age that leads to a date of birth of about 1818, most certainly not 7 Oct 1818 in Goldbach. This is implying the census says something it does not. If people are not careful, they will tie records to information that they do not say. I realize it may seem like a minor detail, but it is not. Saying something says something it does not is inaccurate and leads to all kinds of confusion.


16 June 2008

Suggestions for Most Online Digital Newspaper Collections

There are several sites that offer online images of microfilmed issues of newspapers, particularly newspapers fifty or more years old.

My suggestion to most of these sites:

Do not post "hit and miss" issues of newspapers. While I realize that not all newspapers are extant, in several cases, a few issues for a month or a year are put online when more issues were microfilmed. I would rather see just the year of 1877 put online rather than a smattering off issues from 1877 through 1930. It makes searching more effective.

Just my opinion.


28 June 2007

Is DNA that big of a deal?

For most genealogical problems, how helpful is DNA actually? In my opinion, not very. While I admit there are times where DNA analysis can be helpful, in the vast majority of cases DNA does not provide the type of relationship precision we need. Knowing that two people are related "somehow" "somewhere" "an unknown number of generations back" is typically not the kind of information genealogists need.

And I don't need to know where my ancestors were from 100,000 years ago. How that helps me with 18th century research is beyond me. Frankly, I'm tired of all the hype.

Instead of money and effort devoted to DNA genealogy research, we need to be concentrating on digitizing and permanently preserving the unmicrofilmed records of NARA and many county courthouses. Those records tell us stories that DNA never will be able to.

Those are the stories I want to hear. That is what I want to learn.
I do not give one iota about where my ancestors were 100,000 years ago.


09 April 2007

Genealogy Cruises

Dick Eastman has been mentioning genealogy cruises on his blog and their apparent popularity.

I am afraid that I just don't understand the appeal. Opportunities for genealogical instruction are great, but I'm not convinced that the cruises are for everyone.

One draw of the land-based conferences is that I don't need an entire week or more of time off work to attend. In fact, I can even attend half of the conference if I so desire..and I can leave whenever I need to. This gives me great flexibility. I have too many obligations at home to be gone for over one week.

The exhibit hall is another huge draw for me as well. And personally, I would love to spend either a week in Richmond or in Ft. Wayne. There are excellent research facilities in both venues and Richmond offers a close proximity to a wonderful variety of historical sites for the genealogist who is not from the area.

And if I ever get to go on a cruise, I don't think I want to be attending lectures, classes, etc. every day while doing it. A vacation is supposed to be a time to "get away," not a time to "drag it with me." And I know me...the chance I go on a cruise is close to zero. If I get the time and the money, I'm visiting ancestral homelands in Europe--I'll leave the cruises to someone else.

Of course my opinion is biased. This is written by someone whose never been inside a casino or made the thirty mile trip to visit one of the Mississippi riverboat casinos either (nor have I ever bought a lottery ticket...)


05 April 2007

Free Genealogy

Like a sine curve which repeatedly rises and falls, there is always a discussion that genealogy should be free and that companies should not charge for what one can get for "free" elsewhere. Ever been to an airport? Right next to the drinking fountain they sell bottles of water for $2.50. I don't see any picket signs. I don't see any protestors. Where is the outcry? There is never discussion that they should not sell water when one can get it for free.

I can go down to the library and get census on microfilm. Free. Just gotta haul my butt down there when it is open and wait for a machine. And hope they have the census for that county 600 miles from here.

Frankly, I'm more concerned about the health care crisis and general literacy levels in this country than I am the "free genealogy crisis."

I choose to pay to have access to the indexed census in my home rather than go to the library. I love libraries, but I don't always have time to get there. Someone wants to index records, digitize them and charge for access. Getting paid for work, or should they work for free? Tell that to the company holding your mortgage.

Well, they charge for water to come into my home and heaven knows I NEED water a lot more than I need genealogy data. I can survive for years without an indexed census. I can't live very long without water. Of course, I can always go down the creek with my bucket. That's free...as long as I don't get caught trespassing.

And to be honest anyone who is on one of the many genealogy mailing lists might be surprised about how much help they will be able to get for free. More help and assistance right in their own home than we would have dreamed up twenty years ago.



03 March 2007

The "real" concern with Civil War Pensions

Genealogy blogs and email lists are abuzz with news of the proposed raise in fees for copies of Civil War pension records from NARA (the National Archives). I won't repeat that commentary here because I have another concern regarding these records that I have not seen addressed: the long term preservation of these records.

Records of Union Civil War pensions only exist in the original paper form. They have not been microfilmed. They have not been digitized. While I am concerned that the price of a set of copies may be come somewhat high, I am more concerned that the long term preservation of these records is not being addressed.

How long will those papers last under ideal conditions? I'm not certain. If we fail to address the long term preservation of these historical records, agruments about copy costs may be moot.


01 March 2007

Relationships--Let's Get it RIGHT

CBS news discusses the Sharpton-Thurmond connection in a recent article on their site.

CBS news states, in part:

"The Rev. Al Sharpton said he wants a DNA test to determine whether he is related to former segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond through his great-grandfather, a slave owned by an ancestor of the late senator."

Let's get it right, Julia Thurmond Sharpton was a granddaughter of Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather. She and Strom Thurmond are first cousins twice removed.

If the national media can't get this straight, how can we ever expect them to explain really complex issues to us? Heaven knows fixing health care, social security, etc. are more complicated than how Strom Thurmond is related to Julia Sharpton.

It is a good thing I'm not famous. I have cousins to whom I am related three and four ways. Heaven knows CBS couldn't understand that ;-)


28 February 2007

Politicians lining up to advertise on Rootdig.com

This is not an endorsement of Douglas Fairbanks or John McCain. One is running for president. One is dead.
I can't specifically control the google ad content on my website, but usually the ads have a genealogical bent. Today that has changed. Politicians have discovered Rootdig.com--candidates are advertising on a site devoted to the search for dead people. Maybe the ads should appear on my pages on Chicago voters from the 1880s--some of them may still be voting.
I'm still waiting for return calls from other marketing managers of other national campaigns....