29 June 2012


You're excited when Ancestry.com adds a new collection but when you go to your tree you notice you have 300 new hints. They're all from the new collection and 120 of them are for the same person. How can this be? 
Q: How much information do you have in that person's timeline?
A: Well I have his marriage record from 1843. So why am I getting 120 hints from a collection in the 1930s?

Q: Do you have a year for his birth?
A: No. I don't know it so I left it blank.
And there's the problem. No search engine will estimate a birth year from the marriage year or death year or any other item in the timeline.  A search engine will also not estimate a birth year of a person based on the ages of their children or siblings but you can. It will keep the hints a little more realistic and you won't risk getting carpal tunnel ignoring 120 irrelevant records. 
Use bef, aft, and abt for before, after, and about or a range of years (i.e. 1820-1825). If the site you're using has age range options use them when you actively search. Adding the +/-1 to +/-10 filters when you search will help keep results in the range you need.

PREVIOUS POST: You Did What?!!? The Sequel
NEXT POST: Geneatheology

26 June 2012

You did WHAT?!!? - The Sequel

"They haven't got brains, any of them,
only grey fluff that's blown into their head by mistake,
and they don't Think."
- The House at the Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
The first You did WHAT?!!? post was in late March.
At the time I thought, "This could be a once a year post."
Little did I know that just three months later I would have more
than enough material for another post.
Quotes are after the jump.
I have not corrected spelling or grammar.
You have been warned. My comments are in red.

22 June 2012

Murphy's Law of Genealogy

As genealogists we're supposed to cite our sources but I've searched. None of the places I've seen this posted includes a source. If anyone knows who wrote the original (I've edited it slightly) please let me know so I can either credit them or take it down and link to their page.


The public ceremony in which your distinguished ancestor participated and at which the platform collapsed under him turned out to be a hanging.

When at last after much hard work you have solved the mystery that you have been working on for two years, your aunt says, "I could have told you that."

You never asked your father about his family when he was alive because you were not interested in genealogy then.

The will you need is in the safe aboard the Titanic.

Copies of old newspapers have holes occurring only on the surnames.

John, son of Thomas the immigrant whom your relatives claim as the family progenitor, died on board ship at the age of 10.

Your great grandfather's newspaper obituary states that he died leaving no issue of record.

Another genealogist has just insulted the keeper of the vital records you need.

The relative who had all the family photographs gave them all to her daughter who has no interest in genealogy and no inclination to share.

The only record you find for your great grandfather is that his property was sold at a sheriff's sale of insolvency.

The one document that would supply the missing link in your dead end has been lost due to fire, flood or war.

The town clerk to whom you wrote for the information sends you a long handwritten letter which is totally illegible.

The spelling of your European ancestor's name bears no relationship to its current spelling or pronunciation.

None of the pictures in your recently deceased grandmother's photo album have names written on them.

No one in your family tree ever did anything noteworthy, owned property, was sued or was named in a will.

You learn that your great aunt's executor just sold her life's collection of family genealogical materials to a flea market dealer 'somewhere in New York City."

Ink fades and paper deteriorates at a rate inversely proportional to the value of the data recorded.

The thirty-seven volume, 16,000 page history of your country of origin isn't indexed.

You finally find your great-grandparents' wedding record and discover that the bride's father was named John Smith.

The family you are looking for will be on the last page of the unindexed (of course) census film that you check. However, if you begin at the end of the roll, they will be on page 1.

The microfilm that you have diligently searched page-by-page will have an index at the end.

All of your spouse's ancestors will be mentioned in county histories. None of yours will be.

If you need just one record, the microfilm will have page numbers. If you need 3 or more records, there won't be any page numbers and the records will not be in the proper order.

The book you need most will be out being rebound.

You will need item 23 on a microfilm roll that has 22 items. The rest of the film is continued on another roll that will not be in the drawer, and the librarian will tell you that it is "missing and presumed lost."

The records will end just before the entry you need. They will begin again two years after the date you need.

If one brother is left out of the genealogy of a family, guess whose ancestor he will be?

If there is a family history on one branch of the family -- it won't be yours.

The researcher you hired to read the original records at the courthouse will inform you that only the particular probate packet you need is missing.

After spending a week at Family History Library in Salt Lake City, you finally find the book that will tell you about your ancestors ten minutes before closing time. Needless to say you have to return home and will probably never make it back to Salt Lake City again!

NEXT POST: You did WHAT?!!? - The Sequel

19 June 2012

On the Hunt

Comments after the jump.
Items in orange are NOT attached to this tree.
All other census records ARE attached to this tree.
Links to records will be viewable if you have an Ancestry.co.uk or Ancestry World subscription.


 First Section: Records for Charles Hunt born in Broad Hinton, Wiltshire, England
 Second Section: Records for Charles Hunt born in Titchfield, Hampshire, England
 Third Third: Other random censuses attached.

Census Records:

1841 Job 26, Ann 30, Elizabeth 8, William 5, Charles 2
1851 Job 36, Ann 38, Elizabeth 17, William 15, Charles 11, Edward 8
1861 Charles 21 (Lodger)
1871 Charles 31, Elizabeth 28, George 5, Emily 2, Edward 1
1881 Charles 41, Elizabeth 37, George 15, Emily 12, Edward 11, 
         Job 8, William C. 5, John 3, Fanny E. 2, Charles 3 mo., Elizabeth 3 mo.
1891 Charles 51, Elizabeth 48, Edward 21, William 15, John 13,
         Fanny 12, Charles 10, Elizabeth 10, Arthur 6, Mark 2

1841 William 25, Eliza 25, Charles 2 mo.
1851 William 37, Eliza 40, Charles 10, Harriet 8, Eliza 2
1861 Charles 18 (Boarder)
1871 Charles 30, Eliza 62, Eliza 22, Vincent B. 18
1881 Charles 40, Annie 40, Arthur Chas. 6, Agnes Mary 4, Alfred Geo. 1
1891 Charles 50 (widower), Charles A. 16, Agnes M. 14, Alfred G 11

1861 Charles 20, Ann 25, Henry 1
1871 Charles 29, Emma 35, Emma J. 4
1871 Charles 30, Emma 30, Edith 1

15 June 2012

Steal My Identity and Rob Me, Please

Recently I came upon a tree whose owner had left his entire family open to identity theft. Every living person on the tree has a lot of detail and is viewable by any Ancestry.com (.co.uk, .au, .ca, etc.) member. Ancestry.com has a privacy curtain in place. Anyone who is listed with a birth date within the last hundred years and who does not have a death event will be listed as living. Only the tree's owner and the people he/she invites to the tree and specifically gives the ability to view living people on his/her tree will be able to see those profiles.
So how do I know these people aren't all dead? How did they get around the privacy curtain? Everyone in this tree has a death "fact" at the bottom of their timeline. Instead of a "place of death" some of them have the word "LIVING" (or "living" or "Living"). Ancestry's privacy system expects the user to be smart enough to leave off a death event for anyone still breathing. George Carlin was right, "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."
I considered sending the owner a message but I don't think a message from a stranger would have much of an impact since he obviously didn't care about his family's privacy in the first place. Instead I left a comment. I'm hoping that he has invited some of his family to the tree and they will see the comment. Hopefully they will 1) smack him and 2) convince him to change their profiles.
Despite the privacy curtain many people won't add information about living people to their online tree. They know that the best way to protect the living is to not put their information online at all. In the age of Facebook that seems laughable but even Facebook has it's privacy walls. I'm always surprised when people don't use them. Someone will post a ridiculous/strange/idiotic comment on a public Facebook page and out of curiosity I'll check their profile. Many times they have no privacy settings at all! Granted, some of them are spammers/scammers. Those can be pretty easy to spot, i.e. their "favorites" include the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears or the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys or every sport and every sports team in every league under the sun. But for those non-spammy [No, it's not a word but you knew what I meant didn't you?] profiles...I can see where they work, the names of all their children and pets, and what they had for breakfast. I can also see that they'll be picking up little Jimmy from school because he has a dental appointment. And look, there's a picture of Jimmy playing on the school soccer team with the name of the school in the background. Get the idea? Or maybe your status mentions waiting for a flight at X airport for a well deserved vacation. Hope your home security is better than your internet security.
Privacy settings are there for your protection. Use them.

UPDATE: First, apologies for not crediting Steph. She gave me the heads up about the tree with public profiles of living people. Second, it took a number of emails to Ancestry but the profiles are now private.

UPDATE 4 Jan 2013: The profiles of living people on this tree are, once again, viewable by the public. The tree owner has entered "living" as a place of death for all living people in his generation and his parents' generation. There really should be some sort of IQ test given before you're allowed to post your family's information on the internet. 

PREVIOUS POST: Wynne or Lose
NEXT POST: On the Hunt

12 June 2012

Wynne or Lose

Comments after the jump.

B. 21 Nov 1763 in PA
D. 10 Oct 1810 in PA

(1627-1670)                  (1720-1781)                  (1762-1840)                   (1768-1826)
M. ???? in Wales             M. 1740 in ??                 M. 1788 in PA                  M. 1795 in NC

Mary 1659                     Thomas 1741                 Thomas 1787                   William 1748
Tabitha 1661                  William 1748                  Elizabeth 1788                 Elizabeth 1790
Rebecca 1662                Henrietta Maria 1757       Margaret 1790                 Samuel 1795
Hannah 1664                 Washington 1758            Phoebe 1793                    Frances Ridley 1795
Sidney 1666                                                       Ruth 1794
Jonathan 1669                                                    Samuel Claphanson 1795
                                                                         Ruth 1797
                                                                         Ann 1800
                                                                         Susanna 1804
                                                                         Polly 1806
Children's surname(s)
Wynne                            Winn                             Wynne                              Winn, Wynn, Wynne

08 June 2012

Public vs. Private

As genealogists, most of us want to share our information. Sometimes I think it's just because we're excited at the prospect of someone else being interested! Unfortunately it's easy to become disillusioned when someone copies your hard work onto a junk tree. We post our trees to Ancestry.com, or some other genealogy site, hoping to find family and instead we find name collectors and people whose trees have gone off the rails.
The cold, hard truth is, if you don't want anyone to misuse your photos or documentation, don't share them. EVER. Cynical? Maybe but once a single copy of your research or photos has left your hands you have no control over where it is posted. So if it will upset you to see a photo from your tree attached to someone you’ve never heard of, don't post it publicly online. If you still want to have a tree online one option on Ancestry.com is to make your tree private. Your tree will show up in searches as will items attached to your tree but someone would have to contact you to get the details. If you don’t want to share at all there's an additional box to check in the private tree option: "Also prevent your tree from being found in searches." No one will contact you to ask how you're related to John Smith because they won't know there's a John Smith in your tree.
Having said all that, I have a public tree. If you've been reading this blog for a while you know it's not because I haven't had items "stolen" yet. (That tree has not been fixed by the way.) I did consider making my tree private after that happened but then what? Does the error-ridden tree that includes some of my information get copied by others? Do I let my photos, at least one of which is attached to the wrong person, exist on this horrible tree and keep the correct info hidden? I decided instead to keep my tree public. When I notice errors being made in someone else’s tree I write a story stating the differences. For anyone who connects, or has connected, to that person on my tree the story should pop up as a hint. If they choose to ignore it well,...I can always use their tree for a future blog post. [insert evil laugh]
I’m not saying everyone should have a public tree. There are numerous reasons to have a private tree. Here's a few just off the top of my head but I'm sure there are many more:
1. The family skeletons are fairly recent and your family isn’t ready to make them dance yet. Illegitimate children, murder, incest...you want to include it but also want your family to continue speaking to you.
2. Family members may be more willing to write stories about their childhood or memories of a person or place if they know the only people reading it are family.
3. A relative has given you access to their research provided you don’t post it publicly online.
4. You want to make sure someone is related before allowing them access to your tree.
5. It’s the only way to make sure people ask before taking your photos, documents, stories, etc..
6. There is a lot in your tree that you are unsure about. Keeping it private keeps others from copying information that may turn out to be incorrect.
7. Despite repeated messages saying, "This is not the family you're looking for", one person keeps adding your family to their tree. (Was I the only one that went back and read that as Obi-Wan?)
All valid. Even if the reason was, "The government is tracking me so I can't let my tree show up in a search." Paranoid? Yes but it's their tree and their decision to make.
There have been a number of online posts lately complaining that someone didn’t ask before attaching items from a public tree. Considering the amount of activity in my “Recent Member Connect Activity” I’m glad people don’t ask. Do people really want to spend half their day answering messages and checking other trees to make sure the person asking is related? If you want people to ask, make your tree private. If your tree is public, what happens if you say no? The other person can just download your item and upload it their tree as their own. Besides, you already gave permission when you agreed to the terms and conditions for Ancestry.com.
"But...but...copyright!" So you took that photo of your great-great-grandfather? And I don’t mean you "took it" from Grandma’s photo album but that you physically held the camera and pressed the button. No? You may have the photo in your hand but if you weren’t the one holding the camera when it was taken you probably don’t own the copyright. (There are a few exceptions. You can read more about it here.) If you were the person holding the camera then you can only take action if someone downloads the photo and uploads it as their own. Want to argue that someone attaching your upload to their tree is a violation of your copyright? An argument can also be made that by uploading your photo to a site that had sharing capabilities, is in fact known for it's sharing capabilities, with no privacy settings on your tree, you wanted to share the photo and were not concerned about copyright. Did you seriously think no one would attach it to their tree?
"But...but...I paid for that record that I scanned! Copyright!" You do not own the copyright on a scanned document. You had no hand in the creation of that document, which is where the copyright would be. Creating a scan of that document does not equal copyright. If you paid for the record and think others should pay to get their own copy don’t post it on a public tree.
"But...but...they copied Grandma's profile!" "Grandma's profile" has a list of facts (i.e. birth date, place of marriage, etc.). Facts (dates and places) are not subject to copyright. If you write a story about Grandma's life, whether it's one paragraph or ten pages, you own the copyright to that. But anyone can pull the facts out of it for use on their tree. If they publish your story verbatim without your permission then you would have a case. That is unless your story is just a list of facts with a few prepositions thrown in.
One concern for both public and private online trees is, "What happens to it when I'm gone?" If your tree is public the information will be shared long after you're gone. Trees are not removed when the owner dies but you might want to make it easy for someone in your family to pick up where you left off. Write your username and password down and keep it with your important papers. If your tree is private it's even more important that you do this. If you don't share your username and password or specifically ask for your files (paper, digital and genealogy software) to be passed to someone in your family your research could die with you.
Sorry to be so morbid but who knows the reality of this more than a genealogist?

NOTE: Many of you have probably noticed that I have not addressed the fact that those with private trees can attach items from public trees. I know that's a sore point with a lot of people. Honestly, it doesn't bother me. If you want to complain about that issue you are welcome to do that in the comments or you can write a post on your own blog ;-)


PREVIOUS POST: A Double Wedding
NEW POST: Wynne or Lose

05 June 2012

A Double Wedding

Comments after the jump.

Married on 19 Nov 1751 in Berks County, PA
To Catherine (surname unknown) AND Anna Marie Voegel

With CATHERINE (1729-1848)            CHILDREN         With ANNA MARIE (1731-1759)

Christina Rexrode (b. 1736 VA)                                       Heinrich Rexroad (b. 1756 PA)
Barbara Rexroad (b. 1759)                                             Sophia Catherine Rexroad (b. 1759 PA)
Zachariah Rexrode (b. 1761 VA)                                     Sophia Catherine Rexroad (b. 1759 PA)
Dorothy A Rexrode (b. 1763 VA)
Nathan Rexroad (b. 1766 VA)
Sophia Catherine Rexrode (b. 1769 VA)
Johann Adam Rexroat (b. 1770 PA)
Margaret Rexrode (b. 1770)
John M Rexrode (b. 1771 VA)
Leonard Rexroad (b. 1771 VA)
Henry Rexrode (b. 1778)
Mary Rexroad (b. 1782 VA)
Catherine Rexrode (b. 1787 WV)
Jacob Rexrode (b. 1789 VA)
Samuel Rexrode (b. 1794 VA)
George R Rexrode (b. 1798 VA)
Barbara Rexrode (b. 1799 VA)
Solomon Rexrode (b. 1803 VA)
Henry S Rexrode (b. 1806 VA)


Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s
Immigration in 1773, Germany to Philadelphia, PA

1790 Census, Reading, Berks, PA
Zacharias Rexrode
Persons (all free and white): 4 males under 16, 2 males over 16, 1 female

Family Data Collection
Johannes Zacariah Rexrode, b. 1725 in Berks, PA
Married to Anna Marie Voegel on 19 Nov 1751, Berks, PA
Attached to BOTH marriage events

Pennsylvania, Veterans Burial Cards, 1777-1999
Death of John Zacharias Rexroad (1746-1791)

1840 Census, Pendleton, VA
Zachariah Rexroad
Born about 1761, veteran, living with son Solomon and family

1850 Census, Western District, Ritchie, VA
Henry Rexroad
Born about 1778 in VA, living with Catherine (age 72) and Louisa (age 15)

01 June 2012

The 10 Commandments of Genealogy

1. Thou shalt not mindlessly copy other trees. 
If you've read this blog before it should be no surprise that this is first ;-)

2. Thou shalt read records before attaching them to your tree.
Every person with the same name is not the same person. Also, all people with the same surname are not related. You will read ALL the information and use your powers of deductive reasoning.

3. Thou shalt cite your sources.
Just as with a science experiment, someone else should be able to re-create your results using your research as a road map. Unlike science, there are exceptions, i.e. personal interviews and personal memories. Even if you don't cite your sources according to Evidence Explained you should have enough detail so that you or anyone else can find the source of the information again.

4. Thou shalt back up your tree(s), photos and documents often.
ALL forms of storage are subject to the unexpected. You should back up often and in different ways. Paper, flash drives, CDs, internal hard drive, external hard drive, online... Pick at least two different ways to store your items and don't keep those two forms in the same place. If you want your research to live past you be sure to keep the necessary info (usernames and passwords) with your important papers (will, medical directive, etc.). This is especially important if your tree is private on Ancestry.com. If you don't leave your password to someone your research dies with you.

5. Thou shalt not use the term "brick wall" lightly.
When I see someone say they have a "brick wall" because they've been looking for something for a week or a month I just roll my eyes. A true brick wall takes years to build. Don't make up artificial ones.

6. Thou shalt learn to put your family in historical context.
Local history, national history, world history... It's all important and had an impact on your ancestors' lives. Did a national or world event give your ancestors the impetus to immigrate? The year your ancestors immigrated, how long would the trip have taken? Learn about their daily lives too. How much of an effort did it take to hitch up the horses to go to church on Sunday morning? What modes of travel were available during their lifetime? What did making a meal entail? You'll get a better understanding of the world they lived in. It will also keep you from attaching two 1860 censuses enumerated in the same week to the same family when one is in Virginia and the other in California.

7. Thou shalt not limit yourself to Ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com is a wonderful site. I'm a subscriber and don't know what I would do without it. Having said that, it doesn't have everything, never will. For genealogists Ancestry.com is one tool in our toolbox. For a carpenter a hammer can do a lot but if that carpenter uses only a hammer he won't get much accomplished.

8. Thou shalt not limit yourself to internet research.
Read the carpentry analogy in #7 again :-) It's amazing what we can get done while on the couch in our pajamas but only a small percentage of genealogical data is available online.
In 2007, the New York Times looked into the sudden fervor for digitizing everything under the sun - a trend I am wholeheartedly in support of - and reached an interesting conclusion. At the current rate of digitization, it would take approximately 1,800 years to capture the contents of the National Archives text-based collections. Mind you, this doesn't include all the non-text items - photos, films, and so forth - and speaks solely of the National Archives, so it doesn't address any other repository.
- Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak in her book Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing
9. Thou shalt make friends with librarians and workers/volunteers in courthouses, historical societies, churches, etc..
Your goal is to be memorable...in a good way. You may not be able to make a trip back to that county courthouse but if you made a good impression on your visit it will be easier to get more records/copies with just a phone call. Also, a small donation to a library, historical society, church, etc. that you visit couldn't hurt.

10. Thou shalt pay it forward. 
Many of the records we find are available online for free. Someone indexed the record you found and you can help someone else find their ancestor. A few options:
* At Family Search you can help index records from all over the world.
* Find a local cemetery to photograph for Find a Grave.
* Key records for Ancestry.com's World Archives Project. The indexes created through WAP are free to everyone.
There may be projects available in counties or states where your ancestors lived. If you have a favorite genealogy project to volunteer for please comment and let everyone know about it.

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