Archive for the ‘Online Genealogy’ Category

Online State Resources for Genealogy e-book version 3.0 now available!

I am pleased to announce that my popular ebook Online State Resources for Genealogy has once again been updated, and version 3.0 is now available for purchase.

The Online State Resources for Genealogy ebook was originally released in January 2011, containing links to online record indexes and images. Unlike many resource guides the focus of this ebook is on those websites that contain record indexes and images but are not genealogy-based sites. You will not find references to Ancestry.comFamilySearchU. S. GenWeb, or Find-A-Grave.

Instead you will find links to resources found on the websites of state and county archives, county clerks, historical societies and museums, university libraries, public libraries, and others. These sites contain many records that have never been previously digitized or made available online. Many of these have never even been microfilmed.

In its 1,100+ pages, Version 3.0 provides information for over 600 repositories, containing over 9,000 links!

In addition to the new links, all of the previously listed links have been verified and updated when necessary. I have also introduced two new chapters to accompany the individual state chapters, focusing on National and Regional sites.

I would also like to announce the debut of a companion blog, also entitled Online State Resources for Genealogy. This blog will explore one or two individual resources from the book each week. Subscribe at http://onlinestateresources.wordpress.com and expect the first post in the next few days.

To purchase version 3.0 of Online State Resources for Genealogy, visit http://haitfamilyresearch.com/onlineStates.htm.

Finding a house in the UK census

There’s little worse than looking for a family in a census and not finding them. Especially when you have other records, and you know exactly where they were living at the time. I recently experienced this again while searching for a family in the 1851 census of England.

James Farmer, his wife Nabby, and at least a few still-unmarried daughters and an infant son should have all been living somewhere in Wigan, Lancashire. Yet the family did not appear in the indexes to these records on FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, or FindMyPast.com. On each site I tried numerous variations, “soundex” settings, wildcards . . . with and without birthdates, with and without surnames, with and without given names. Nothing worked.

I knew that the family was living in Scholes. The birth registration for a son born in 1848 reported their address at that time as Wellington Street.[1] I looked at a map of Wigan and found Wellington Street. I read the enumeration district descriptions on the first page of the census for each nearby district and thought I had found where Wellington Street was likely to have been enumerated. Yet I did a page-by-page search of these districts and still no Farmer family.

Finally, I solved the problem using an online finding aid provided by the National Archives [UK]: the Historical Streets Project.[2]

For each census from 1841 through 1901, the Historical Streets Project provides a listing for each street within each registration district. You will need to know the district in which the street lay in order to browse directly for the appropriate street, though it is also possible to use the wiki search engine to find references to the street name. Each street listing identifies a nearby street, and, more importantly, the NA reference number and folio of that street’s enumeration.

To find the Farmer family, I simply had to go to the street index for the 1851 census, focus on the Wigan registration district, and look for Wellington Street. The Historical Street Project revealed that the street was enumerated on HO 107/2199, folio 252–257. The reference “HO 107/2199″ corresponds to several enumeration districts within Wigan. Folios 252–257 appear in enumeration district 1I in Wigan. Looking through these six pages was quite simple, and the family appeared exactly where they should have![3]

Interestingly enough, the handwriting on the entry is quite clear. I am still not sure why none of the online indexes contained this Farmer family by name.

SOURCES:

[1] England, birth certificate for James Farmer, b. 6 October 1848; citing Volume 21, page 763, entry 372, Wigan Union registration district, County Lancaster; General Register Office, Southport.

[2] “Your Archives:Historical Streets Project,” The National Archives, Your Archives (http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Your_Archives:Historical_Streets_Project : accessed 4 November 2013).

[3] 1851 U. K. Census, Lancashire, Wigan Borough and Township, St. Catherine’s Ecclesiastical District, folio 257 (stamped, verso), page 31, household 105, Wellington St., James Farmer household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 November 2013); citing Class HO107, Piece 2199.

Looking Back on ’12, Forward to ’13

The New Year always brings reflection. Since I started this blog, I have used it as a way to gauge my professional progress. You can read about my goals from previous years in these earlier posts:

In last year’s post, I set a few goals for myself. Let’s see how I managed to meet them (or not):

1. Continue to design new presentations. . . .

This was a great year for presenting. I did two all-day workshops in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in March, and in Germantown, Tennessee, in May. I also spoke at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, in May. And in June I delivered five lectures at the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research in Birmingham, Alabama. I also delivered several individual lectures in Philadelphia and at several societies in Maryland and Delaware.

As for 2013, first up is the Maryland Genealogy Crash Course for Family Tree University on January 10. From January 14 through January 18, I will be on the faculty at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, co-teaching Course 8: Producing a Quality Family Narrative, with John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA, presenting two lectures in Thomas MacEntee’s Course 6: A Genealogist’s Guide to the Internet Galaxy, and delivering an evening lecture, “What is a ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Search’?.”

Then in June, I will again be on the faculty of the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research, with three lectures in Course 3: Research in the South, Part II: Cessions & Territories, and one lecture in Course 6: Professional Genealogy. On July 17 I will be conducting another webinar for Legacy Family Tree, “Research in the Old Line State: An Overview of Maryland Genealogy.” From July 21 through July 26 John Philip Colletta and I will be teaching “Your Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories: Writing a Quality Narrative” at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

I hope to see some of you in the coming year!

2. Complete some books that have been sitting on my shelf. . . .

Nope, still didn’t get them finished. Maybe I’ll have time in 2013.

3. Finish my updated edition of Online State Resources for Genealogy. . . .

I finished the updated edition in August, with both a PDF and an EPUB edition (which still has some bugs). With the book growing each year, it will take longer and longer to check the links and add new resources. I believe that an annual update will be a more realistic goal, especially considering my other projects. Expect a new edition sometime this summer.

4. Get started on some new books. . . .

I have started the series, and expect that I will be able to get at least the first volume (maybe more) finished this year.

5. Have an article accepted for publication in an academic journal. . . .

I had two articles published in the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal in 2012 and my first article will be published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly in the upcoming December 2012 issue. I have a little more research to do for the article I intend for The Genealogist, but I have already started writing the Maryland Historical Magazine article.

6. Get better at time management. . . .

My time management has improved slightly. Still want to be more productive in 2013.

7. Write some magazine articles. . . .

I had a much slower year in magazines in 2012. I did have an article published in Family Chronicle, an article in the National Genealogical Society Magazine, and two articles in the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly.

8. Submit to genealogy writing competitions. . . .

In April I learned that I had won first prize in the National Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest! It was such a tough competition that they actually chose two winners, myself and F. Warren Bitner, CG. I would like to take this time to congratulate Warren as well, whom I have finally gotten to know a little bit at the 2012 national conferences.

I didn’t enter any other competitions in 2012, so on that end I failed, but here’s looking forward to the future. :)

9. Attend the new Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. . . .

Sadly, after being away from home, out of state, for eight weekends in a row̶–̶̶from the 2012 NGS Conference through the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research at Samford University–I simply had to rest. But, while I did not attend the Institute in 2012, I will be attending in 2013. I am actually going to be on the faculty, teaching the course “Your Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories: Writing a Quality Narrative” with coordinator John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA.

10. Find some time to research my family for a change!

Not as much as I may have liked. But I have been getting some of my research written into at least one article that I hope to submit to the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record later this year. Maybe I’ll be able to write more than one. If I start writing articles on my previous research on my own and my wife’s families, I could potentially have articles in journals of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and South Dakota! This is a long-term project, though, so don’t expect too many in 2013.

I already have quite a bit planned for 2013, so I am not going to set any goals other than to renew the goals from 2012. Let’s see if I have any better luck this year.

Happy New Year!

U. S. Census Pathfinder now available

I recently completed a free PDF e-book: U. S. Census Pathfinder.

This e-book compiles available information from government and independent websites concerning the U. S. federal census. These resources will allow genealogists and historians to use the federal census to its greatest potential. Among the resources are

  • authorizing acts of Congress;
  • enumeration instructions;
  • original (blank) census forms;
  • information about the original manuscript schedules held at the National Archives in Washington;
  • links and descriptive pamphlets (DPs) of the microfilm editions;
  • links to free and pay sources for digital images;
  • statistical compendia; and
  • explanatory or background articles.

If you use the federal census in your research—and what American researcher doesn’t?—please use this to find the background material you need. You can find the e-book in the “Free Resources” section of my business website, or by following the link above.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think. What have I missed?

The “literature search” in the Internet age

Many genealogy guides advise that we should first conduct a literature search when researching a new family. Traditionally, this has meant examining published work. The Internet has changed both the nature of “the literature” and how (or if) we conduct these searches.

Before the Internet,  compiled genealogical work products appeared in self-published books and society journal articles. To a certain extent one might even consider the examination of published queries in society journals as part of the literature search. In this way, researchers could “gather clues” from and build upon the previous research of others.

Another part of the process—especially if researching a family that had not been previously researched and published—was looking for ancestors in published indexes, abstracts, and transcriptions. Some of these were printed in books, others in society journals.

The early days of Internet genealogy (the mid- to late-1990s) reproduced the traditional literature search online. There were a few sites that allowed uploading of GEDCOM files, where researchers could connect through the online publication of their research. The USGenWeb system of sites published genealogy indexes, abstracts, and transcriptions of records. Conducting a literature search then consisted of looking at both print and online sources.

It is now 2012. The nature of what we find online has changed. I recently had a discussion with a fellow genealogist about whether the literature search is still necessary.

To answer this question, we must review the two main reasons for conducting a literature search.

First, we would look at previously-published research. There is a lot of this online now.

As I discussed in an earlier post, we can’t ignore it. On the other hand, a lot of it—especially the Ancestry.com public trees—would not qualify as genealogy. I recently discovered that one of my ancestors, born in the mid-nineteenth century in New York, had been attached as the mother of a woman born in North Carolina in the eighteenth century. At least in the days of printed research, the mistakes were at least generally geographically centered. No “shaking-leaf” mistakes.

So how much of the online trees should we bother to look at?

There are a few wiki-based family tree sites. In theory, the collaborative nature of these sites will make them more likely to be accurate. Many families, however, have only one member-contributor, so there simply is no collaboration. The accuracy is only as good as the researcher.

Nearly every Ancestry.com search will bring at least a few public trees. As already noted, many of these are simply examples of bad—some might say nonexistent—research. One way to find the better research is to look for “Public Stories.” These often contain user-transcribed records or personal memories. The trees that contain them are usually the work of genealogists who are trying to put together a good family tree.

Online trees of course suffer from the same weaknesses and shortcomings as their offline equivalents. Not all researchers have the same level of skill. This is as true now as it ever has been. The only way to know how reliable a published tree is, is to evaluate the evidence. Unfortunately, very few online trees have source citations. Even fewer have proof arguments that explain the reasoning behind the conclusions that have been made.

You can of course contact the creators of most online trees. They may or may not respond. If they do respond, you might be able to ask for source citations (if they have them) or ask them for their reasoning for certain conclusions. This will help in the assessment of the research.

Second, we would find our ancestors in published indexes, etc. The most important aspect of this is to understand what records exactly have been indexed, and obtaining the original source record for the reference. The reason this is important should be self-evident.

Given the focus of this blog on professional research skills, I would also like to address the question from the perspective of a genealogist researching a client project. How much of a literature search is it necessary to conduct?

The Internet has changed every aspect of how we research. Because of Ancestry, FamilySearch, and the hundreds of other websites that have brought them online, we now have direct access to digital image copies of original records. In my opinion, the ease of access to these records makes much of the literature search unnecessary during the beginning stages of our research.

When we have direct access to the original records, why would we waste our clients’ research time looking at online family trees compiled by researchers of questionable skill? As skillful researchers ourselves, we should (presumably) reach the same conclusions based on the same records.

In my opinion, it is also too tempting to accept the conclusions made by previous researchers. For this reason, I generally skip the previous research aspect of the literature search. I prefer to look at the records themselves and form my conclusions based on these records alone. This removes the potential to be biased toward a previous conclusion.

This is not to say that I do not still conduct a literature search. The difference is that I generally do not look at previous research until closer to the end of the project. After I have found the records and reached at least tentative conclusions, I may go back to see how they match up with previous research, to see if I may have missed some crucial element of the subject’s life. If I get stuck on a line, an online family tree might provide me with the clue that gets me past it.

What do you think about the literature search in this age of the Internet? Is it still necessary?

Please leave your comments below.

Online State Resources for Genealogy e-book version 2.0 released!

I am pleased to announce that my popular ebook Online State Resources for Genealogy has been updated, and version 2.0 is now available for purchase.

The Online State Resources for Genealogy ebook was originally released in January 2011, containing links to online record indexes and images. Unlike many resource guides the focus of this ebook is on those websites that contain record indexes and images but are not genealogy-based sites. You will not find references to Ancestry.comFamilySearchU. S. GenWeb, or Find-A-Grave.

Instead you will find links to resources found on the websites of state and county archives, county clerks, historical societies and museums, university libraries, public libraries, and others. These sites contain many records that have never been previously digitized or made available online. Many of these have never even been microfilmed.

The first edition contained 201 repositories across the United States, featuring over 2,000 links. Version 2.0 examines 428 repositories, featuring almost 6,000 links! In addition to the new links, all of the previously-listed links have been verified and updated when necessary.

Even more exciting is the introduction of an EPUB edition of the book, for use with your favorite e-reader. This was a frequent suggestion, and I am pleased to be able to offer this new edition.

To purchase the standard (PDF) edition of Online State Resources for Genealogy, version 2.0, click here.

To purchase the e-reader (EPUB) edition of Online State Resources for Genealogy, version 2.0, click here.

If you previously purchased the first edition, please read my post, “Important notice for purchasers of Online State Resources for Genealogy.” If you have already responded as requested in that post, there is no need to do so again.

Registration link for Online State Resources fixed

For a few hours earlier today–shortly after posting “Important notice for purchasers of Online State Resources for Genealogy“–I was experiencing some (more) technical difficulties.

I have since resolved the issues, so please take a few minutes now to send a registration email to the address provided in the Introduction to the ebook.

Thanks for your patience, and I hope that you are enjoying the book!

Important notice for purchasers of Online State Resources for Genealogy

Online State Resources for Genealogy contains links to thousands of indexes and images of original records that genealogists can use in the course of their research. Of course, the mutable nature of the Internet means that sites will come and go, pages will change, and resources will be added. Keeping up with all of these changes, and continuing to add newly-discovered resources, is a daunting task. But it is a task that I have committed myself to–continuously updating the listings over time.

Understanding this from the beginnings of the e-book, I promised all registered purchasers a complimentary update. To register, all you have to do is send a message to an email provided in the Introduction.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake.

Because I have not yet completed the next edition, I did not see the need to periodically check the email account over the past few months. Apparently the email account was marked inactive and all of the registration emails were deleted. I have remedied the situation for this edition, and will be finding a better method of registration for the next edition.

If you have purchased Online State Resources for Genealogy, please take a minute to send a new message to the registration email address provided in the Introduction. All registered purchasers will receive a complimentary copy of the next edition.

I have been working on the next edition and should have it completed soon. Many new resources and updated resources have already been added.

If you have not yet purchased the ebook, you can find reviews at the following sites:

Harold Henderson, CG, “More on line records from Michael Hait,” Midwestern Microhistory blog, posted 10 February 2011 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : accessed 9 July 2012).

Thomas Macentee, “Review – Online State Resources for Genealogy,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 22 February 2011 (http://www.geneabloggers.com : accessed 9 July 2012).

Craig Manson, “Book Review: Online State Resources,” Geneablogie blog, posted 5 February 2011 (http://blog.geneablogie.net : accessed 9 July 2012).

George G. Morgan & Drew Smith, “The Genealogy Guys Podcast #219 – 2011 April 9,” The Genealogy Guys Podcast, posted 10 April 2011 (http://genealogyguys.com : accessed 9 July 2012).

Marian Pierre-Louis, “Book Review: Online State Resources for Genealogy by Michael Hait,” Marian’s Roots and Rambles blog, posted 30 January 2011 (http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com : accessed 9 July 2012).

Randy Seaver, “Book Review: Online State Resources for Genealogy,” Genea-Musings blog, posted 3 February 2011 (http://www.geneamusings.com : accessed 9 July 2012).

The WikiTree Honor Code

My thanks to Dr. Bill Smith for bringing this to my attention by writing about the Code.[1]

I will admit that I rarely use collaborative genealogy sites. Nothing against the sites themselves–it just does  not often fit into my research plan. First, I have little time to research my own family and do not use online family trees for clients unless I am completely out of other options. Second, the online trees just don’t generally meet the standards of proof that I try to meet.

One of the leading collaborative sites in the market today–WikiTree–has recently instituted an “Honor Code.” This Honor Code is the first attempt of which I am aware that tries to bring research standards to online family trees. This nine-point Code addresses ethical concerns such as courtesy and privacy, and legal concerns such as copyright. In terms of research standards, it includes the following important point:

VIII. We cite sources. Without sources we can’t objectively resolve conflicting information.[2]

This one point in the WikiTree Honor Code actually addresses two of the five points of the Genealogical Proof Standard: that we cite our sources (obviously) and that we reconcile conflicting evidence caused by conflicting information.

I would like to commend the WikiTree team for making this first step in supporting genealogy research standards. I would also like to invite other collaborative genealogy sites to follow their lead to help make online genealogies more reliable in the future. This will do much to raise the overall quality of online genealogies.

SOURCES:

[1] Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith, “I support the WikiTree Wiki Genealogist Honor Code,” Springfield Genealogy Examiner, posted 29 June 2012 (http://www.examiner.com/article/i-support-the-wikitree-wiki-genealogist-honor-code : accessed 1 July 2012).

[2] “Wiki Genealogist Honor Code,” WikiTree (http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Special:Honor_Code : accessed 1 July 2012).

Using Ancestry.com’s “New Search”

Periodically, comments will be posted on one mailing list or another, or some blog or another, by an experienced genealogist, in which they express trouble with Ancestry.com’s “New Search” and try desperately to get back to the “Old Search.”

For the life of me, I cannot understand these feelings. I have been using the “New Search” since its debut a few years ago, and find it far superior to the old search engine. I can only suppose that the problems stem from unfamiliarity with the more powerful settings.

When most people see the “New Search,” this is what they see:

I will admit that this does look quite unbearable to use. However, you will notice the “Show Advanced” link at the bottom, next to the “Search” button.

When you click on this link, the appearance of the search box changes dramatically.

To get the best search results, click that box in the upper left corner, “Match all terms exactly.” Checking this box changes the settings under each box from “Use default settings” to “Restrict to exact.” (Don’t worry, you can limit this.)

When you clink on the “Restrict to exact” link in various boxes, you get the following options:

First & Middle Name(s): “Restrict to exact matches and

  • Phonetic matches
  • Names with similar meanings or spellings
  • Records where only initials are recorded
Last Name: “Restrict to exact matches and
  • Soundex matches
  • Phonetic matches
  • Names with similar meanings or spellings

Location: “Restrict to this place exactly” “Or restrict to just

  • county/adjacent counties
  • state
  • state/adjacent states
  • country

[Note: You must have a county specified in this box in order for these options to appear.]

Wildcards (* or ?) will not work with any of these options. They only work when “Restrict to exact” is active. However, these options do allow for more flexible searching, without requiring wildcards. On first name, for example, a search for Anna with the “similar meaning or spellings” box checked will also return Ann, Anne, Annie, Hannah, etc.

Another complaint with “New Search” is that the results seem random. This is also a quick fix.

The default setting is view results by relevance, which appears as follows:

Here you see that the results from numerous record groups appear.

However, you can change the results to appear by record group. This is particularly helpful, for example, if you know that the person you are searching lived from 1863 through 1921 in New York. You can use a little genealogical reasoning to skip the record groups before 1863 and after 1921, and those that do not concern New York.

To make this change, you just have to click on the drop-down menu in the upper right next to “View”, and change “Sorted by Relevance” to “Summarized by Category.”

You can then go through and select each potentially relevant record group one-by-one. This, of course, limits the results to those in each individual record group. You can also make changes to the specific search terms within each record group. Just use your browser’s “Back” button to return to this main search results page to access other record groups.

I hope that this brief tutorial helps those who are having problems, and I welcome any questions, if I have not addressed any other issues with “New Search.” I believe that you will find–like myself–that the current search engine is far superior to the “Old Search” that everyone seems to love.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,746 other followers

%d bloggers like this: