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.