Showing posts with label Genealogical Proof Standard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogical Proof Standard. Show all posts

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.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Weighing the Evidence on Grandpa's Birthplace

Six of my Burk (aka Berg/Berk/Birk/Burke) ancestors came to North America from Lithuania. The oldest of the siblings, Abraham, settled in Montreal. All the others lived for decades in New York City.

In birth order, they were:
  • Abraham Berk (1877-1962)
  • Nellie Block (1878-1950)
  • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) - Hi, Grandpa!
  • Meyer Berg (1883-1981)
  • Jennie Birk (1890-1972)
  • Max (Matel) Berk (1892-1953)
Where, exactly, were these Litvak ancestors from? I've been weighing the evidence, following the Evidence Explained principles. Fortunately for me, the evidence is quite compelling in favor of one birthplace for all the siblings.

Of course I'm putting the most weight on primary (original) sources created by "someone with first hand knowledge . . . created at or about the time an event occurred." Primary information (from original sources) tends to be more reliable, even though the person who provided the info may not remember correctly or may answer inaccurately for some other reason.

I've assembled the following evidence about the siblings' birthplace.
  1. Abraham Berk's Canadian naturalization petition listed Gordz, Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. When Abraham entered America in 1919 to visit his brother Isaac, he said he was born in Gorst-Kovna-Russia. Abraham provided all this info.
  2. Nellie Block never declared any birthplace that I can find, unfortunately. I don't believe she ever married, nor did she apply for Social Security or naturalization. 
  3. Isaac Burk told US border officials in 1904 that he was born in Gerst, Russia, when he entered America from Canada. His 1939 naturalization papers and WWII draft registration show Lithuania as his birthplace (Isaac provided the info). Grandpa Isaac was buried in a cemetery plot that's part of the Sons of Telsh society. That adds to the indirect evidence in a small way.
  4. Meyer Berg's passenger manifest from 1903 shows Gelsen, Kovno as his most recent residence. His WWI draft record shows Gorsd, Russia as his birthplace; his WWII draft record shows Gorso, Russia as his birthplace. Meyer's naturalization petition from 1920 shows his birthplace as Kovna, Russia. Meyer provided this info.
  5. Jennie Birk's 1966 passport lists Lithuania as her birthplace. Her husband Paul Salkowitz listed Gardzai, Lithuania, as his birthplace on naturalization papers, but didn't show anything for her birthplace. Best of all, Jennie's marriage license from 1919 shows Garsden, Russia as her birthplace, info provided by her.
  6. Max Berk's 1920 naturalization petition shows Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. His 1906 passenger manifest shows Korst as his last residence. Max provided this info.

According to the Jewish Genealogy Communities Database, nearly all of these places are, essentially, other names for one place: Gargzdai, Lithuania (sometimes not spelled correctly or only spelled phonetically).

This evidence leads me to conclude that Grandpa Isaac and his siblings came from Gargzdai. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Plus I'm going to change the family tree so that every one of the siblings shows this as their birthplace.