Thursday, November 12, 2015

Not All Sources Are What They Seem

The source information provides on some indexes might be misleading. Extremely misleading.

Take for example this one:

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

Reading all the above, without following the link to the FamilySearch website, one would likely assume that all the entries originally came from official birth and christening records. It’s an index, so there could be transcription errors. It’s a secondary source. But it is still a transcription from a primary source, right? Or at least a transcription of a transcription since sometimes those vital records get transcribed by churches and governments. Thinking carefully, we may not know how many transcriptions there have been, but somewhere in the distant past there was a primary record. Right?

Let’s go to FamilySearch
“Vital Records Index” seems self explanatory, and sounds like what we expect. But what is the International Genealogical Index?
The IGI contains individual records of birth or christening, marriage, and death or burial for people all over the world. The IGI was first published in 1973 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; it was then closed in 2008, which means that no more information can be added to the index. The IGI was created from two unique sources: first the entries from the IGI were abstracted and indexed from original vital records by volunteers. The second was community contributed, which means that individuals would add in their own personal family names, which are not always the most accurate.
Nice use of understatement at the end of the description there. Yes, the database at Ancestry which implies that it comes from vital records includes family tree information provided by individuals with no fact checking and no indication of where the information truly came from.

Here’s an Ancestry record from that database for a great-aunt of mine. I don’t have her birth certificate, but I guarantee you that she was not born in England. Those are her parents’ names though, so it’s not an issue of two people with the same name. This is clearly an example of “community contributed” information to the IGI.

Going to Family Search and actually looking up the Film Number, you can find two entries for Minnie Ray. The Alston, Cumberland, England birth, and a San Marcos, Hays, Texas birth. As I said above, I don’t have a birth certificate. And while both entries are likely “community contributed” only one can possibly be correct. Theoretically, both could be wrong in some fashion. However, the San Marcos, Hays, Texas record, even if not 100% correct, puts you closer by a few miles. (Another use of understatement.)

I would be curious how the community contributor made the mistake. My suspicion is that their notes got jumbled and a place of birth for one person got swapped in by mistake. An easy human error to make. The existence of two entries with the same Indexing Project Number and Film Number suggests they may have come from the same contributor, and maybe they were confused about her birth for some reason and had two entries, and they both got submitted to the IGI.

While I was able to find both of these entries at FamilySearch, I believe Ancestry has only used these FamilySearch databases for non-US data. So the Texas entry didn't come up in my search.


Not all sources are what they seem. The international indexes of Select Births and Christenings, Select Births and Baptisms, Select Deaths and Burials, and Select Marriages that cite back to FamilySearch as their original source? Don’t assume the information in these indexes all come from vital records. How much of the data is based on vital records, and how much was community contributed is unclear.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day / Remembrance Day 2015

Caption for photo to left: Human Statue of Liberty. 18,000 Officers and Men at Camp Dodge, Des Moines, Iowa. Colonel William Newman, Commanding. Colonel Rush S. Wells, Directing. Mole & Thomas, 09/1918. (source)

November 11 is Veterans Day in the US, and Remembrance Day in the UK, Canada, Australia, France and Belgium. In Poland it is celebrated as National Independence Day.

Below are the names of ancestors, and their siblings, who I know served their nation's military, either in a time of war, or in a time of peace. I am including my Loyalist ancestors; their nation was Great Britain. Canada became their country after the war. I am including my Confederate ancestors too, despite their desire to form a separate nation. I am also including a Conscientious Objector ancestor since the DAR counts him as a Patriot.

Fifth Great Grandfathers
McGregory Van Every (1723-1786) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers
Michael Showers (1733-1796) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers
Mark Fretz (1750-1840) Patriot (Inactive Duty) Pennsylvania militia

Fourth Great Grandfather
David Van Every (1757-1820) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers (served briefly as a Patriot in the NY militia)

Fifth Great Uncle
Benjamin Van Every (1759-1795) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers (served briefly as a Patriot in the NY militia)
William Van Every (1765-1832) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers
Peter Van Every (1771-bef 1816) Loyalist/Fifth Lincoln and Second York regiments (War of 1812)

Fourth Great Uncles
David Van Every Jr. (1782-1847) Loyalist/Second York regiment (War of 1812)
Michael Van Every (1790-?) Loyalist/Fifth Lincoln and Second York regiments (War of 1812)

Second Great Grandfather
Ebenezer Denyer (1828-1872) (Mexican-American War) (Confederate Army)

Third Great Uncles
Samuel Jennings Denyer (1822-1861) (Gonzales County Minute Men - Republic of Texas -1841)
Samuel T Hartley (1830-1920) (Confederate Army)

Great Grandfather
Samuel Deutsch (1861-1938) (Franz Josef's Austro-Hungarian Army)

Melvin L Newmark (1912-1992), WWII
Martin J Deutsch (1907-1991), WWII

Great Uncles
Jerry Deutsch (1909-1950), WWII
Allen Deutsch (1914-1988), WWII
Harold Newmark (1915-2003), WWII
Mandell Newmark (1923-1945), WWII (DOI)
Bernard Feinstin (1913-1968), WWII
Seymour Feinstein (1917-1999), WWII

Stevan J Newmark (1942-1997) Army Reserves

Photographs of those who served in World War II

My grandfathers Melvin Newmark (1912-1992) and Martin Deutsch (1907-1991)

Allen Deutsch (1914-1988) and Maurice "Jerry" Deutsch (1909-1950).

Harold Newmark (1915-2003) and Mandell Newmark (1923-1945).

Bernard "Benny" Feinstein (1913-1968) and Seymour "Babe" Feinstein (1917-1999)

Wordless Wednesday: William Edgar Geil (1865-1925)

Second cousin of my second great grandfather, Ebenezer Denyer.
 Son of Samuel Geil, whose reminiscences I transcribed a couple weeks ago.
(Move the cursor over the image to read more information [source])
Below is the report of his death:

Monday, November 9, 2015

How many trips across the ocean did my ancestor make?

Today I found this record at Ancestry:

Sam Newmark - arriving in Quebec on Nov 14, 1903 on the "Parisian" steamship crossed the border at Niagara Falls on November 30th. He was born in the Radom Province of Russia, and his last residence was in England. He was headed towards Rochester, New York to look for work.

While the place of birth isn't very clear on this card (and the Ancestry indexer went with "Edom") the matching manifest clearly says Radom, and Radom is an actual Polish Gubernia, which includes Warsaw, where I believe my Newmark ancestor was born. He's the last entry on the manifest:

From the age on the manifest, it puts him within one year of my ancestor's birth on other documents. And the manifest indicates he was a tailor, which is also correct. It's difficult to imagine a second Samuel Newmark with all the matching criteria, but coincidences happen.

From other manifests I know Samuel and his son, Barnet, travelled to the US in 1907, returned to England in 1908, and the whole family made the final voyage in 1909. But if this is my ancestor, it appears Samuel made an earlier voyage in 1903, a few months after his final son, Israel David, was born in April. His eldest, Sol, was married in 1902, and likely was the primary wage earner for the family while these trips were made.

I also note that there is a Morris Stone, also from the Radom Province, also a tailor, and also headed to Rochester. It may be a coincidence, but they may also have been travelling together.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Amanuensis Monday: Samuel Jennings Denyer - School Master

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

This week I look at a newspaper article that references Samuel Jennings Denyer, the brother of my second great grandfather, Ebenezer Denyer. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

The Bucks County Gazette
Bristol, Bucks County, PA.
Friday April 23, 1909
Page 1


Becoming reminiscent last week, Samuel Geil, aged 85 years, imparted to the Gazette correspondent some interesting information which has probably never been published before.

Most interesting was the story of how the lead deposits at New Galena were discovered many years ago as the result of a farmer’s curiosity being aroused by the fact that some of the rocks he picked up were so much heavier than the ordinary ones. Remarking upon it to Jesse Moore, then a blacksmith in the vicinity, he was told to bring several of the rocks to the smith, and when he did Moore succeeded in some way in smelting the ore in the furnace. He found it very rich with the metal, but it was not until many years later that the mining of the ore was taken up.

Mr. Geil also talked of some of the old school masters he had known before the public schools were known, and among others mentioned Christian Burkholder, Samuel Jennings Denyer, Thomas J. Clark and Henry Bertel. All of these men, he said, were German Mennonites, for it was among this sect that the best educated men were to be found in those days. Burkholder was the inventor of a peculiar spelling machine.


1. Samuel Jennings Denyer, the older brother of my second great grandfather, Ebenezer, became his legal guardian upon their father, William's death. The probate documents identify him as the 'tutor' for his younger siblings, which simply meant 'legal guardian' at the time. But apparently he had experience as a teacher.

2. Samuel Geil, born in 1825, was a first cousin of William Denyer's wife, Elizabeth Sliver Denyer. William and Elizabeth's son, Samuel Jennings, was born in 1822, and died in 1861 at the age of 38. My ancestor, Ebenezer Denyer, was born in 1828 and died in 1872 at the age of 43. So Samuel Geil outlived his cousin's children by a large degree. (Samuel died in August of 1909, only a few months after this newspaper article.)

3. I find it interesting that Samuel Geil lists Samuel Jennings Denyer as a teacher, since he was only three years younger. But it's possible.

4. Samuel Jennings' mother was of German Mennonite descent, but his father, William, was from England, and was a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church. Some sources indicate Samuel had attended an M.E. seminary, and was preparing for a ministry himself at the time of his death. As cousins it's likely Samuel Geil knew the Denyer family weren't Mennonites, but the memories of an aging individual aren't always the most reliable.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sepia Saturday 300: Images of the Deceased

Sepia Saturday - A weekly meme providing a visual prompt for participants to share their own photographs. (I'm going to share some poetry as well.)

It is thought that this image may be an example of a Post-Mortem photograph, where at least one of the individuals is deceased. An appropriate image as we are in the month of October and Halloween. The boy and man both look as if this might be the case.

I don't have any post-mortem photographs, but the feeling one gets seeing images of the dead reminds me of the images I saw in French Children of the Holocaust, by Serge Klarsfeld, 1996. (The book can be viewed online.)

A publication of Jewish children deported from France (very many of which were not French nationals, but earlier refugees from elsewhere in Europe). The book includes alphabetical lists of children by convoy, indicating surname, forename, birthdate, birthplace, assembly center, convoy number, deportation date, and last address in France, followed by a photographic section featuring portraits and other information on many of the children. There are two indexes, a general name index to the deportation lists and an name index to the photograph section.

Ida CANTKERT was born on October 14, 1927, in Paris (12th arr.). She lived at 20 rue Basfroi (11th arr.). She was deported on convoy 68 of February 10, 1944, with her sisters Frida, age 4, and Suzanne, 8, and her brother Paul, 10.


It is possible that I am related distantly to Ida and her siblings. My second great grandmother, Rose Cantkert Newmark, came from Warka, Poland, on the outskirts of Warsaw. The deportation lists indicate that Ida and her siblings were born in Paris. But there is no indication of where her parents were born.

Excerpt from: Mid-Term Break - by Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying—
He had always taken funerals in his stride—
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble'.
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

[full poem]

Monday, October 5, 2015

Amanuensis Monday: The Estate of William Denyer - Part 2

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

This week I look at another document from the probate folder for my third great grandfather, William Denyer (1794-1848). (Click on the image to enlarge.)

July 11, 1848
State of Louisiana
Parish of St. Martin

Be it known that on this Eleventh day of July, Anno Domini Eighteen hundred and forty eight and between the hours of 10 o’clock a.m. and 4 o’clock p.m. of said day, I Simon W. Walsh, Notary Public in and for the Parish of St. Martin aforesaid, duly sworn and commissioned did in virtue of an order from the Honorable Fourteenth District Court of the aforesaid Parish, and to me directed under date of the 7th of June 1848, cause to come before me Harry Hopkins, Viel D’Arby, Jerome Mudd, John S. Richardson, Gustave Sonsoulin (?), all of the aforesaid Parish, and friends of the Minor heirs and family of the late William Denyer deceased of said Parish, at my office in New Iberia to compose a family meeting to advise and recommend such measures as to them would seem conducive to the interest of said minors and family; when, after said members composing said – Family Meeting had been duly sworn, they proceeded to appoint a Tutor to said Minors – and after due deliberation they appointed Samuel J Denyer as Tutor – as he furnished his bond in the sum of

With John G Richardson as his security and which said Family Meeting accepted.

Harry Hopkins
Viel D’arby
Jerome Mudd
J. S. Richardson
Gustave F Sonsoulin (?)

I as undertutor of said minors do hereby approve of the foregoing proceedings

A. Duperier (?)

S. W. Walsh
Notary Public


1) I believe the individuals listed as either friends or family of the estate are most if not all friends. William Denyer's family being in England, and the family of his late wife, Elizabeth Sliver Denyer (1798-1840) in Pennsylvania. However, I will research the names here to make certain.

2) While in general this document is easier to read than the one from last week, there are a few names of which I'm not completely certain I have transcribed correctly.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sepia Saturday 299: Candy is Dandy

Sepia Saturday - A weekly meme providing a visual prompt for participants to share their own photographs. (I'm going to share some poetry as well.)

Excerpt from: Reflections on Ice-Breaking, by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Is Dandy...

Everyone is familiar with the last two lines, right? If not, follow the link.

This week's image prompt is an advertisement for Wampole's Preparation, which was marketed as a tastier way to deliver cod liver oil. (Cod liver oil has a high vitamin-D content, which is useful in preventing Rickets.) In addition to the cod liver oil, the 'preparation' contained 12% alcohol.

Today's parents might receive a visit from Social Services if they regularly gave their child alcohol-based tonics.

Today, October 2nd, marks one year since my wife and I sat in a courtroom and promised a judge that we would continue to love and care for our two twin boys, always and forever. They had been living with us many months, but it was on this date that the judge finally removed the adjective 'foster' from our relationship, and we legally became their parents, and they became our sons.

Here are a few photographs. I promise they are drinking apple juice in the first one. One thing the images illustrate is how my wife and I like to dress them in 'coordinating, but not matching' outfits. It helps to be able to tell them apart.

A Flight Shot, by Maurice Thompson (1844-1901)

We were twin brothers, tall and hale,
Glad wanderers over hill and dale.

We stood within the twilight shade
Of pines that rimmed a Southern glade.

He said: “Let’s settle, if we can,
Which of us is the stronger man.

“We’ll try a flight shot, high and good,
Across the green glade toward the wood.”

And so we bent in sheer delight
Our old yew bows with all our might.

Our long keen shafts, drawn to the head,
Were poised a moment ere they sped.

As we leaned back a breath of air
Mingled the brown locks of our hair.

We loosed. As one our bow-cords rang,      
As one away our arrows sprang.

Away they sprang; the wind of June
Thrilled to their softly whistled tune.

We watched their flight, and saw them strike
Deep in the ground slantwise alike,      

So far away that they might pass
For two thin straws of broom-sedge grass!

Then arm in arm we doubting went
To find whose shaft was farthest sent,

Each fearing in his loving heart      
That brother’s shaft had fallen short.

But who could tell by such a plan
Which of us was the stronger man?

There at the margin of the wood,
Side by side our arrows stood,      

Their red cock-feathers wing and wing,
Their amber nocks still quivering,

Their points deep-planted where they fell
An inch apart and parallel!

We clasped each other’s hands; said he,      
“Twin champions of the world are we!”