Showing posts with label Ancestry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ancestry. Show all posts

Friday, July 13, 2018

Lessons Learned in My Virtual Research Trip

Today, when I was clicking my merry way through online records pertaining to my husband's Slatter family, I discovered one shortcut and was reminded, yet again, of the value of checking originals.

Above, the shortcut I found to cut through the clutter of hints. My husband's Slatter family tree on Ancestry has more than 9,000 outstanding hints. Most of those are for ancestors too distant to be a priority. So I clicked on "records" to choose only those hints, then brought up the "filter by name" sorting option. (The default is "most recent" which means when Ancestry added that hint.)

By entering "Slatter" in the surname search box, I was able to view only record hints containing that name. Of course, I could have searched by first and last names, but given the creative spelling in so many records, I wanted to click through all Slatter record hints individually. Focusing on one surname enabled me to make progress, rather than being sidetracked by hints unrelated to my current research.


Now for the reminder about original records vs. transcriptions. The three dates on this record of marriage banns from a London church are 1 Dec, 8 Dec, and 15 Dec. The handwriting is very clear. At top of the page, not shown here, is the handwritten year--1907. Yet the transcription of this record says the year is 1908.

By reading the handwritten record, I was able to enter the correct dates for the marriage banns of Thomas Albert Slatter and Jessie Alice Elms. Also, the marriage license original confirmed the actual wedding day as 28 December 1907.

It's never safe to assume a transcription is accurate, let alone complete. It took only a few more clicks to view the originals and extract every possible data point.

My starting point for today's post was Elizabeth O'Neal's Genealogy Blog Party, July edition: Virtual Research Trippin'.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Clues Buried in Sources on Other Family Trees

Good genealogy researchers trust good sources, right?


And that's why, any time I view other people's family trees on Family Search or Ancestry, I go straight to the sources. This allows me to retrace the steps of any family history researcher and examine the evidence for myself. I analyze and weigh the details of every piece of evidence. If the evidence seems solid, I add it to my tree, cite the source(s), and factor it into my genealogical conclusion.

If a tree has no sources, I move on--nothing to see.  Family stories and relatives' memories are only a starting point--we need actual evidence to construct a reliable family tree. Too often, family trees posted online use other family trees as the source (a la the sources titled "Ancestry Family Trees"). Sorry, not good enough for the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Sources for other people's trees, if any, will be hiding in plain sight.* At the top, a family tree on Family Search, with the button "print family with sources" circled in dark green near the bottom of the image. Click, and up pops a pdf of a family group record followed by pages of full sources (like the ones below).
I compared this tree with a tree on Ancestry, where the sources are in the center column for convenient access. Both of these trees had good sources--different sources, in some cases. By viewing the original documents, not the indexed or transcribed versions, my neighbor and I picked up good clues to research as she follows the Crandall branch of her family tree.


* Thanks very much to reader Marian, who pointed out that on the profile page of each person in Family Search, there are sources listed. Clicking on a fact will bring up any linked sources--then click on the sources to see the documents. I print the list so I can check which I have and which I haven't seen before by comparing with my tree.

PS: Yes, my neighbor knows about the Crandall Family Association. She's actually done a ton of research. We were spot-checking dates and spelling by looking at sources connected with other people's trees.

PPS: Above, from a tree that will be nameless (to protect the guilty), one reason why I distrust trees without sources. Jean must have had quite a wedding in 1805, considering she's listed as dead by 1790.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Testing Ancestry's "We Remember" Site

Ancestry has a new site in beta, "We Remember." A few days ago, I gave it a try. First I had to log in (using either Ancestry or Facebook user/password combo). After several aborted tries with Firefox, I switched to Chrome as my browser and was able to proceed. The interface was sluggish in both browsers, but presumably this will change over time.

At top, the memorial after I entered the requested info:

- Name of person (Dorothy Helen Schwartz)
- whether MD, Ph.D., etc. (this info doesn't appear on the memorial, not sure why)
- full birth and death dates (NOTE: only birth year and death year appear on the memorial)
- city and state/country of death (doesn't appear on memorial, not sure why)
- 250 words about her (plus an obit, if available)
- indicate whether she was family, friend, etc.

Next, I was asked to submit an obit if desired and write a "memory" of my aunt, including a photo of my choice. Alas, my first "memory" and related photo disappeared. The next memory was successfully saved and appears on Dorothy's public memorial page.

What do I think of "We Remember" so far? This will be my only attempt unless and until the interface is speedier and more reliable. Also, I believe all the requested info should appear in full on memorials. Why not show full birth and death dates rather than simply truncate to year only? Why not show MD or Ph.D. on the page? My aunt was justifiably proud of her Ph.D., and I had to mention it in the memorial text since it doesn't show after her name in the title.

Why the 250-word limit for the bio on the memorial page? This isn't Twitter--it's supposed to be a memorial, and no meaningful bio can be squeezed into so few words. In some views of the memorial, no middle name or initial appears--which can make it tough to locate just the right person. Again, I can't imagine the reason for this limitation.

I'm not sure that setting up "We Remember" memorials will do anything more meaningful genealogically than my Ancestry trees, my Find a Grave memorials, and my blog posts. But I'm willing to be convinced if the interface improves, the presentation of details is expanded, and a chorus of other genealogy enthusiasts find some value in this site.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Family History Month: So Many Hints, So Little Time

After reading Amy Johnson Crow's thoughtful post, "Should You Take Ancestry's Suggestions?" I thought about my own approach to the hints on my trees. As of this morning, my husband's tree has an incredible 7,406 total hints! So many hints, so little time.

My triage plan goes like this:
  • Sort by people, not by when the hint was generated. That way, I can choose who I want to research, rather than reviewing hints based on when the system presents them to me ("within last 7 days" etc.).
  • Look at relationships to avoid wasting a lot of time on people who are really remote on the tree. Say, for instance, Jane McKibbin, whose hint is shown here--she's a sister-in-law of my husband's 1st cousin 4x. Not someone I need to research with any particular urgency, unless I have a specific goal in mind.
  • Review photos quickly, because often they are ship images or flags or something else rather than an ancestor's image. I usually click to ignore 95% of photos, reviewing only actual faces or family groups.
  • Review stories to see whether there's anything personal or historical. Sometimes these turn out to be interesting! A letter that my mother-in-law wrote to a genealogist in the 1970s turned up as a story hint on the Wood tree not long ago.
  • Review records for ancestors I'm actively researching. Depending on my focus, I might look at all record hints for one particular ancestor or a family or a surname, in search of new avenues to explore.
  • Review member trees as a low priority unless I'm trying to connect with a cousin or someone else who is researching an ancestor of particular interest. Why? Because way too many member trees have no sources attached or have inaccurate details. But if I'm looking for a cousin, I make it a point to look at these trees and contact individual members with a note explaining who I am and asking about any possible relationship--always offering to exchange genealogy info.
Very likely I'll never get around to reviewing every hint on this tree. At the same time, I regularly click on ancestors of interest, noting that new hints tend to show up after I explore these people individually. Then the triage continues.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Family History Month: It's Backup Day

Happy Family History Month! A great time to think about backups. The first day of every month is backup day--in reality, every day is my backup day. To avoid losing any tiny bit of my precious genealogy research, I use a "suspenders and belt" system.

Let me suggest not just suspenders, not just a belt, but both and more to keep those pants up! Multiple backup methods can do a good job of protecting your valuable files: (1) back up your genealogy software, (2) backup your hard drive daily, (3) do intraday backups of your hard drive if possible, and (4) backup your backups once a month.

One of the things I like about RootsMagic 7 (shown above) is that I can open it, open Ancestry, synch all of my trees, and then back up all my RM7 trees with a couple of clicks. So not only is Ancestry always up to date, my RM7 trees are up to date and safe in multiple places. No matter what software you use, please check on how to back up your trees.

For extra safety, I back up my entire hard drive into the cloud once every day, automatically, using Mozy.

Not to mention my hourly Time Machine backups, as a Mac user, also automatic so I just set it and forget it. If something goes wrong during the day, I can return to the version of my file an hour earlier and go from there.

Being super-duper cautious, I have an extra hard drive for once-monthly backup of my backups. Today is that day. I have nearly 20 years' worth of details on my trees. Keeping all those details safe is a high priority.

Are your files safe? Are your backups safe? For peace of mind, consider suspenders and belt backups.



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Happily Testing RootsMagic

During the IAJGS Conference last week, I had the opportunity to learn more about gen software that actually, for real, synchs with Ancestry, including downloading media (such as photos and documents attached to individuals).

Yes, I do have an existing gen program, but it's got every bell and whistle on the planet except synching, which wasn't available four years ago when I bought that old software.

Meanwhile, during my Genealogy Go-Over, I've been building my Ancestry trees and "sharing trees" with close cousins, so I have access to their names/photos/documents. I like the convenience of adding somebody else's photo of great uncle Moe to my Ancestry tree with one click. I'm accustomed to the Ancestry interface and navigating the site in search of more clues.

Now I wanted to be able to download all of that to my Mac with no rigamarole. So I plunked down cash to buy RootsMagic 7 at the conference special price last week.

Success! Granted, the interface doesn't look at all fancy (see an excerpt, above). Still, it gets the job done, has useful features that help me manage my people and trees, and it's fairly user-friendly.

Best of all, my attachments were easily downloaded along with every tree (see the purple oval marking the "media" tab). I can browse them, open, do whatever I want. Yay!

By the way, trees that were "shared" with me by other Ancestry users could also be downloaded by RootsMagic. That was a bonus I didn't expect.

I'm still testing all the features, and I'm very happy so far with the experience. Simply being able to vacuum up all my Ancestry trees to have on my home Mac forever was worth the money, no matter what else I use the software for.

Going forward, I'll continue to build my trees using Ancestry, and then synch using RootsMagic. It's just easier for me, it allows cousins to immediately see the latest info I've gathered, and I gain peace of mind that my Ancestry data will be duplicated on my own Mac.

Of course, I've also backed up the RootsMagic trees on an external hard drive for extra security. Can't have too many backups!

Update: After nearly 3 weeks of use, I'm still delighted at the ability to quickly and conveniently synch with Ancestry trees. After each synch I can view all changes to each tree in RootsMagic if I choose, a handy feature. Still need to test reporting mechanisms. More on that soon.