Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Cousin They Lost

The other day, Miriam mentioned a site called Lost Cousins (AnceStories: Lost Cousins is Completely Free Until 2008!). I signed up (free) and while the concept is interesting, I think it would be a lot easier to use if Lost Cousins made a deal (or is there an API?) with FamilySearch that would allow users to "claim" households and individuals in the 1880 census.

It's a great way to find others researching the same ancestors, but I lost interest after adding a handful of individuals to my account.

Looking Back and Ahead

Well, one brick wall came down in 2007: connecting Willis HALL to his parents finally happened. A few years ago, I would have pushed hard to further that research, but I'm more realistic about things now and very relieved just to have completed this phase. Thanks goes out to distant cousins and strangers for their assistance with this research.

Not a lot else happened. That's not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it surprising. I'm lucky now to get a few hours of genealogy in each week. I have finally begun, for the last time, compiling my information in the way I had always wanted. It's a race to see who finishes first — me or the LDS digitization project!

Next year should be more of the same (lack of substantial progress), but also interesting. First, with little effort I could obtain DNA samples from my branch of the HEATONs. It's already been discussed and there seemed to be some interest. The trick will be getting samples from those with verified Pennsylvania (and New Jersey?) roots for comparison. Similarly, I've begun to think that a DNA test on my BURGER cousins might help tie up a few loose ends from 140-150 years ago.

Second, I'm confident Cousin Dan and I are very close to finding where the LODENKAMPERs resided prior to emigrating. It seems like we're in the right neighborhood, so to speak, but I just don't know where to guess next.

Finally, I'm about to order parish records for the REINMĂ–LLER family. If that transaction goes smoothly, I hope to resolve some issues that have been kicking around for several years.

Other than that, I don't see anything big on the horizon for 2008. Maybe I'll get another lucky break like the HALLs and a dead end will open up.

Here's the interesting part about '08: I may be libraryless! My local branch is closed until December 2008 for expansion and remodeling, and I'm not sure that their genealogy section was entirely moved to the temporary location. And thanks to some major roadwork over the next couple of years in St. Louis City and County, getting to StL County Special Collections may not be worth the hassle. Because they have a microfilm scanner, St. Louis is where I order all of my FHL microfilm. I'm hoping that my local branch decides to upgrade and adds one of these scanners next winter because the StL highway work isn't going to be finished until sometime in 2009. That's OK, I guess. It will give me an excuse to work on what I already have and maybe go on some short trips instead.

Green coffins

CNN: 'Green funerals' feature biodegradable coffins.

I've always heard that the best and fastest way to compost is to occasionally turn the pile. Volunteers?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Old Guy Dies

From the Daily Mail: World's 'oldest' person dies aged 116 after putting his long life down to never marrying.
"However, he died before proof of his age was submitted to Guinness World Records."
Is there some reason his age cannot be verified after death?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

MO Deaths: 1939

The Missouri State Archives has added scans of certificates from 1939 to the Missouri Death Certificate Database.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Local archives news

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: National records archive moving to Valmeyer.

What would $1000 get me?

I know that in five or ten years the answers may be a couple of clicks away. I am also aware of my impatience when I set my mind to something. I really want to know where John HEATON came from and who his parents were. I also badly want to know where the EBERT family came from.

The difference here being that I cannot just go research on-site for an extended period of time. It's not feasible and frankly I'm not even sure where to begin. I mean, the areas don't look that big on a globe, but...

Another issue at play is the age and health of certain other family members that I would really enjoy sharing this information with.

There is only so much that can be done online. The assistance and generosity of others can help, but there are only so many RAOGK-type people out there and most don't want a research project. Record retrieval and small scale lookups are their strengths, and that's really all I expect since that's where I often draw the line when I do the same.

So, what I've been thinking about is offering a cash bounty. With my readership, though, I may have to trick Chris into thinking this would be a great Challenge. Maybe a new category: "Sponsored Challenges with Cash Prizes."

This idea is fraught with problems, though. If one were to pay for results, what would be a reasonable list of expectations to have? How many layers of proof or conditions would have to be met before paying out? I'm an honest guy and I'd stand by my word, but I'm not going to hand over $500 or a $1000 to the first person to email me a few names and dates. I don't need possibilities, I need forward (well, reverse) movement on these families.

While I know hiring a pro is an option, I have some reservations about that. First, in both cases I cannot easily reproduce a list of everything I've researched. Fixing this is going to take a very long time. Secondly, and this may not be fair to others, but I did consult a research firm once and every idea they had I had already covered.

DNA may be the cheaper route, but I fear it would still take years to achieve minimal success in terms of the number of people being tested.


This is going to be a fairly lame response to Lee tagging me, but the pickings are slim. It's either this or I go back to the library and make copies of page 161 from the two books in Special Collections that had my full attention last week. These two genealogies had an unbelievable amount of info for a nephew's maternal ancestry.

I may end up buying one of the books from the author, but I don't think I'd be as eager to pay for the other: a limited edition*, two-volume set from 1909. That would cost a pretty penny...which leads to my selection from the 2008 edition of The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. (Nice segue, eh?) Page 161 is mostly tables showing values of 1853 quarters, but there is this text:

"The reduction in weight is indicated by the arrows at the date."

Fascinating, I'm sure.

* This is the second published work I've found with relevant info for certain Maryland Eastern Shore folks, and both books were printed in very low numbers; the 1909 set was initially limited to 50 copies. I haven't looked for reprints yet, but it may just be a matter of time before this genealogy is digitized.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fix Census Indexes & Help Future Researchers

This is probably old news, but the ability to add corrections to Ancestry's census indexes is a great tool that makes the best census collection even better. As I'm sure everyone has found, some ancestral families were recorded or indexed under incorrect or just bizarre spellings of their names. With Ancestry essentially having the people who would (or should!) know better improve the collection, future researchers won't have to pull their hair out trying to find persons of interest.

The link for submitting "Comments and Corrections" is on the right side of the page under "Page Tools." Makes sense. From there you can "Add an Alternate Name" and a brief note about why you are making the correction. I've been surprised at how quickly staff (or an automated system?) is approving my submissions; most are taking just a few days to show up on the website.

Note: If ten people in a household are all indexed under an incorrect surname because the head of household's name was recorded or indexed incorrectly, you will have to submit a correction for each individual. Otherwise, Ancestry will not apply a correction for one person to the entire household.

You probably need to have an Ancestry account and be logged in for these links to work, but here are some examples of my handiwork:

  • Hartwig Heinrich VOSSIEK: The family's surname was recorded as FASSOCK, which makes sense if you know a little about German and what to expect from enumerators. But to a newbie, it might take a while to find this family. I know from experience. (Worse yet, daughter Johanna Friederike Louisa VOSSIEK was counted as a boy named Frederick.)
  • Hermann Conrad Heinrich POHL: Recorded as "Henry BOUL," this wasn't easy to find. After learning about how German sounded, I searched for a family that may have been recorded as BOHL. Still nothing. I don't even remember how I found this record, though it was probably by filtering results based on given name, age and nativity. If the occupation was searchable, this would have been fairly easy. Henry came from a long line of tanners.)
  • Rocceanna (KENSLER) HEATON-SPENCE: The family's name was misread by an indexer and was showing up as "SPIECE." Additionally, the spelling "Rocceanna" was used in several records, but so was "Roxanna" or "Roxianna." I added a note about that, too.

In all, I probably submitted several dozen corrections or name variations to make individuals more easily found. None of these are recent finds. After noticing the correction tool, I took a quick glance at some of the census records I've transcribed (I transcribe all of them I find) and submitted my notes. It's a really easy process and won't take more than a minute or two per census record, depending on the size of the household. To steal a phrase, just do it.

PS - This is not limited to Ancestry's census collection. Corrections can be submitted for records in other databases.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

MO Deaths: 1938

The Missouri State Archives has added scans of certificates from 1938 to the Missouri Death Certificate Database.

All that's left to be done from the initial project is 1939-1944. One would presume that 1957 would then be next since those records are 50 years old.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MO Deaths

The Missouri State Archives has added scans of certificates from 1937 to the Missouri Death Certificate Database.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mmm, rootbeer.

Craig has posted half of his so far excellent four-part series on the "Internet Biographical Collection" (IBC) fiasco at geneablogie.

My position on this now is that I'd actually like to use a genealogy-oriented search engine, one that didn't require me to use all sorts of filtering tricks to ignore the rest of the web. Just a search engine, though. Not a site that does what Ancestry did, though. They really screwed up, in my opinion, all in the name of making a buck.

PS - I'm behind on podcasts and just finished listening to the Aug. 28th edition of "The Genealogy Guys." I like George and Drew, but I can't believe they were supporting the IBC. Sorry, but I don't think it compares to Google or the Internet Archive. (Actually, I'll let Craig determine that.) Google is free to use. The IA's Wayback Machine is free to use. Ancestry, for the most part and specifically in this case, was not free. Additionally, the content was presented in a way that implied it was Ancestry's or submitted to them. That clearly wasn't the case and I think that's what caused most of the backlash. If Ancestry had simply put a new "Internet Genealogy Search" section on their front page or put it on a new domain (GeneaGoogle?), they may have been hailed as heroes.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

MO Deaths

The Missouri State Archives has added scans of certificates from 1936 to the Missouri Death Certificate Database.


For Lee

If you're still out there, this is for you.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Does state licensing of professionals do more harm than good?


Bots hate my ancestors? sold and still sells user-submitted family trees online and on CD. (If I recall correctly, they used to be about $30 each.) The site is now owned by The Generations Network, Ancestry's parent company.

I am an Ancestry subscriber, but I'm not familiar with every feature and database. I recall there being a premium online tree-building section only available to paying customers; something bigger and better than WorldConnect.

I know people are willingly uploading the data and I don't know how a hugely popular site would go about offering free online tree-building, but both of these kinds of services bother me. Obviously not enough to not subscribe to Ancestry, though. I don't know why people use these premium services other than perhaps ease of use, but that still wouldn't change my mind. I just do not like the idea of the data being sold like it is.

So now Ancestry is "caching for cash." Not surprising considering the aforementioned premium services and knowing that search engines, namely Google, have made a killing do this. Really, is it that shocking?

On the other hand, I didn't see any of my data in the new cache database. I didn't search for many names, though. Are my surnames so unpopular that they aren't even worthy of a bot's attention? But I can see why others are upset. Ancestry's presentation was not acceptable. The content was being displayed not as it was intended, but as part of the Ancestry site. That's as tacky now as it was ten years ago when frames were all the rage and unscrupulous hacks would put someone else's pages into their framed layout, as if they did all the work. (There were JavaScripts to bust the frames.) And apparently the clarity of Ancestry's sourcing was poor (I didn't look), which should be embarrassing for a company with so many high profile genealogists associated with it. (Not that that means offense.)

This reminds me of the guy who was hawking software to create bogus genealogy data and web pages. His beef was with Google making money off of his work and trying to gum up their results. I bet he's none too pleased with Ancestry right about now.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Did you see the zombies in my feed?

I went to check on some feeds tonight and among those with new entries was mine. This was odd since A) I haven't posted anything since Feb. 5th and B) the posts looked to have been made by a French person who fancies zombies. I don't know where this problem can be traced to (Blogger or Feedburner), but all I know is that it's wasn't me.

What I really wanted to write about was to announce that I am essentially done with genealogy for the time being. I just don't have the time to keep going like I was. Doing a little here and there is fine for some, I guess, but I've found that difficult to do. For months I have been getting less and less done, and finally it became apparent that I just wasn't going to get different projects completed or even off the ground.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Random bits

  • What a miserable week. A sinus infection/cold/headache kept me at home most the week. I really wanted to do something, but I couldn't concentrate.

  • Since genealogy was out of the question, I watched TV and DVDs. Or at least I sat in front of the TV when I couldn't sleep. I'm not sure I absorbed much. But is it me, or are commercials for Blockbuster and Netflix the only ads on these days? How much are those two companies spending in the battle to show who has a better online rental program? (For what it's worth, I think both services are about the same. The difference is that Blockbuster is giving away all kinds of free in-store rentals.)

  • My prediction (based on no insider info): The Missouri State Archives and volunteers will complete the 1910-1956 death certificate project sometime in April, meaning that in exactly one year they will have done something really amazing. (For the record, I haven't worked on the project since completing the one and only packet I received in 2005.)

  • Ancestry sent me an offer for a heavily discounted subscription. I probably should have signed up. Heck, eight bucks a month in exchange for not going to the library for specific lookups (primarily Ancestry's census indexes, which are superior to HeritageQuest) is a pretty good deal. On the other hand, I can't get enough done anyway. I really don't need easier access to more information I won't be using any time soon.

  • I meant to comment on Ancestry adding Hamburg Emigration Lists to their offerings, which happened at the end of December. I don't know if anyone noticed, but that was free content for a few days -- remember their free access to the Immigration Collection through the end of the year? Once they get all of the lists indexed, that will be a fantastic online tool.

  • I've ordered my DNA test kit from The Genographic Project.

  • To those waiting on me for various genealogy related items, I'm sorry to say that everything is taking me forever to complete or get started on. I thought I'd have a relatively light winter at work, one where I could take along papers to read or edit at lunch, but it hasn't happened. Due to various decisions and an ice storm (which was good for business), I've been kept busy. I'll be happy just to have my winter work projects finished before spring hits, which is when we're really busy.

  • A new version of Ancestral Quest has been released. Once a few things get ironed out, I'm really looking forward to using some of the new features.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

MO Death Certificates, 1956

The Missouri Archives has added death certificates from 1956 to their online collection. This follows an update last month in which 16 years of records were added.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Clutter free in 10 minutes or less

I have a new genealogy tool that I think Lee and some others will appreciate: a cardboard box.

I'm going to clear off my desk by putting all of the papers in a box (or two) and only remove said papers when I am going to analyze/transcribe/scan and file them. This is going to cause some problems -- despite my mess, I know where (almost) everything is -- but I need to get in the habit of having papers filed and the desk clear of clutter. I'd also like to be able to use my scanner without moving several inches of paper each time.


Checklist ideas

After a few minutes searching for checklists, I found a few good examples.

I do like the forms with space provided for information found while researching, but that's not exactly what I'll need in the coming months. An actual checklist that I can take with me and look over while out and about, as well as at home, is what I'll end up making -- likely using a spreadsheet. I have plenty of paper destined for the recycling bin that I can use for jotting down notes; I just need to know what I've already researched.

There may be a way to do this with Ancestral Quest. I probably need to check with the power users to see if this is feasible. Ideally, though, every time I enter a new ancestor or collateral I would have the option of attaching a checklist to that individual.


Illinois tombstone controversy

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Museum asked to give up symbol of 1814 massacre.


Japanese imperial tombs

MSNBC: Japan opens imperial tombs for research.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Resolutions roundup

My goals for this year are nothing compared to rest of the folks who submitted for the latest Carnival of Genealogy. There are some seriously motivated and/or delusional folks out there. ;) (I'm also noticing a trend that a lot of us have filing issues.)

To be fair to myself, I did sort of underplay my goal for a surname project. Soon, I'm going to create two checklists; one for my ancestors, one for the collateral folks. I've toyed with this before, but never made definitive lists and set out down that path. There is certain information that I'd like to have for every individual in a descendant report, such as the basic vital info, census entries, an obit, and a photo of their tombstone, assuming they're dead. Depending on the era, location and religion, I'll go further and try to fill in other blanks (e.g., baptism, confirmation, military, directories). For ancestors, I'll attempt to find everything I can, adding deeds and other assorted records to the mix. I do not plan on fully researching collateral lines. It would be monumental to exhaustively research *every* individual in my database equally. Sorry, just being realistic and honest.

(Does anyone else use checklists? I'm looking for something to inventory what I have or need to find for each individual. If so, let me know.)

The one thing that I did read about in other resolutions that I should and will do this year is helping others with lookups. I'm not going to reregister at RAOGK because I don't know that I could keep up with the requests or if I'm going to be at libraries on a regular basis, but I'm going to try and pick cases from RootsWeb mailing lists and message boards that I know I can help with. I've done this in the past and it usually works out well, similar to having others find my name at RAOGK. I've gotten a lot of help from strangers, most recently from individuals in Minnesota and Maryland and it's only fair to help others in return.

The Minnesota volunteer snapped a few photos and will later get an obituary, and in December someone went above and beyond in getting me several Maryland death certificates -- in the process saving me a nice chunk of change -- and may drive down to my area of interest to scout out a cemetery which may have changed names.


St. Louis City Library website

The St. Louis Public Library (City) hasn't yet converted their entire site to a new layout, but they now have a new gateway for genealogists. On that page, you will see recent additions to the History and Genealogy Department along with links to an obituary search, information about immigration (passenger lists) resources, the Gateway Family Historian newsletter, family histories and the login for their access to HeritageQuest. Experienced researchers may not find much here, but hopefully this is the beginning of something bigger and better. The obit search is already very useful.


Avery: It's not a portrait, but...

If you'd like to see what a probable 9th great-grand uncle looks like, here you go.

Thanks to The Genealogue for spotting this. The article points out some errors in the AVERY genealogy/history.

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