Monday, May 31, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Interview with Melvin Lester Newmark - 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, 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. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I continue the transcription I began last week of an interview conducted with my grandfather, Melvin Newmark, in December of 1987.  My grandfather has just finished explaining how his father, Barney, and grandfather, Samuel had explored America in 1907-1908, and then traveled back to England to bring the whole family over. 

Memorial Day

The above image comes from the Memorial Day page at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, explaining that Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who died in the service of their country.

Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier - by Walt Whitman (From 'Specimen Days')

OF scenes like these, I say, who writes—whoe’er can write the story? Of many a score—aye, thousands, north and south, of unwrit heroes, unknown heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first-class desperations—who tells? No history ever—no poem sings, no music sounds, those bravest men of all—those deeds. No formal general’s report, nor book in the library, nor column in the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or west. Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest soldiers. Our manliest—our boys—our hardy darlings; no picture gives them. Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds, thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump, or ferny tuft, on receiving his death-shot—there sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass and soil, with red blood—the battle advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by—and there, haply with pain and suffering (yet less, far less, than is supposed,) the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him—the eyes glaze in death—none recks—perhaps the burial-squads, in truce, a week afterwards, search not the secluded spot—and there, at last, the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown.

Last year's post

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks --May 23 to May 30
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere

Thomas MacEntee at Destination: Austin Family was asked how to cite a funeral card.  His response indicates the proper way to cite any artifact from a collection, or a digital image of it from online.

Sharlene Miller at Midwest Genealogy provides an overview of the Major Record Groups for genealogy research as well as the different types of sources.

Daniel Hubbard at Personal Past Meditations discusses A Brief History of Oops - looking at where errors came from in the past, and where they may be coming from in the future.

GovGab discusses Family Genealogy and provides a few government resources you may have missed.

Kathleen Brandt at A3Genealogy presents 5 strategies for finding lynch victims.

Lisa Wallen Logsdon at Old Stones Undeciphered discovers a letter from the KKK in 1920s Beeville, Texas thanking one of her second great grandparents for their 'assistance.'

The Ancestry Insider discusses the difference between sources and citations.

Natalie Cottrell at ProGenealogists lists Seven ways you know when you're a genealogy geek.


James Tanner at Genealogy's Star has had several posts so far this week on the file formats one uses to save digital images.  Parts One, Two, Three, Four.

Google Wave is 1 year old.  Anyone can create an account now. 

Good Morning Silicon Valley has a good entry on Reputation Management, and a recent Pew Internet report.

Other Weekly Lists
Amanuensis Monday: May 24th participants

Note: Some people have started referring to this meme as "Transcription Monday."  I'll list you if I see your post, but if you don't include the word Amanuensis, I might miss it.

Apple at Apple's Tree
Valerie C. at Begin With Craft
"anonymous" at filioagnostic
Martin Hollick at The Slovak Yankee
Greta Koehl at Greta's Genealogy Bog
Lisa Wallen Logsdon at Old Stones Undeciphered
John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch
Heather Wikinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy
Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings
Ruth Stephens at BlueBonnet Country Genealogy
Kevin Walker at Who We Were, Are, & Will Be Our Family

If you participated, but don't appear on this list, please, let me know.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

SNGF: Relationship Calculator

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun mission:
1) Open up the genealogy software program of your choice.
2) Think about two special people in your family tree (your parents? your spouse? a famous person? a distant cousin? yourself?).
3) Use the Relationship Calculator in the software to determine the relationship between the two special people. If you don't know where to find the Relationship Calculator, go to the Help button and find out. Follow the directions!
I was going to plot the relationship between my maternal grandmother, Myrtle Van Every (who chose to follow Christian Science) and Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.  I hadn't entered Mary Baker Eddy into my database, but I figured perhaps I would.  First step was to actually see if a quick internet search turned up any possible holes in Ancestry Family Tree's relationship chart.

Ancestry Family Trees has their relationship as 7th cousins, once removed.  (Link is a list of all the notable individuals to whom they claim my grandmother is related.  You can then follow the links it provides to the relationship charts.  Some of them are more likely than others.)

I had high hopes for Mary Baker Eddy, but even quick research suggests Ancestry may have it wrong.

Gary Boyd Roberts, Senior Research Scholar Emeritus at the New England Historic Genealogical Society has an article including some of Eddy's ancestry.  In his notes he states that an earlier work [The Ancestry of Mary Baker Eddy (1924)] is flawed on the Pikes, Ambroses and Lovejoys.  However, the ancestors he lists matches Ancestry's for the first three generations of Ambroses, and one generation of Hoyts.  That's where his list ends.  [Even though his stated goal was to go five generations, where possible, so it seems he isn't sure of the next generation.] In his sources he lists: [A Genealogical History of the Hoyt, Haight and Hight Families (1871, reprint 1984)] which I found in Google Books.

Even though Gary Boyd Roberts doesn't appear sure of Hannah's parents, Ancestry trees says Hannah Hoyt's grandfather, Thomas Hoyt married a Mary Brown, daughter of Richard Brown and Hannah King.

The Hoyt, Haight and Hight Families says that Thomas Hoyt married a Mary Brown, daughter of "William and Elisabeth Brown of Salisbury."  Putting this link in doubt, unfortunately puts my grandmother's relationship to her 'spiritual leader' in doubt.

Here's a post I wrote last year on how I and Patrick Swayze are seventh cousins.  That relationship is much more likely.  Though, interestingly, Ancestry Trees doesn't know about it. [Patrick, for some reason, doesn't appear in OneWorldTree, which I think is a requirement for someone to be listed under 'famous relatives'.]

Sometimes I think to myself, "You should just accept everything you see on the internet; it's much more fun that way."  Unfortunately, I have an interest in the truth.

I guess it's good news

St. Louis County Library to Build Genealogy Center
The St. Louis County Library Foundation plans to break ground late this year on a Family Heritage Center in Chesterfield, Mo., to house the library system’s popular genealogy research collections.
Plans call for a two-story facility of 63,000 square feet, which would allow expansion of the existing genealogy collection. The building is to include an auditorium and a family history museum.
More info

The planned location in Chesterfield is 13 miles from my home.  Which is pretty close.  But the current location is only 4 miles.  I'm spoiled.  Though I live in a fairly centralized location in St. Louis County.  The new location is anything but centralized, and there will be people who are more upset with the new distance than I.

I suspect the center will be amazing, which will be enough to compensate for the added distance.

I am curious which parts of the "Special Collections" section of the library will be considered part of the "genealogy collection."  I suspect all of it, but there are extensive microfilm archives of local newspapers which are useful for family history, and general historical research.

That's an issue that arises whenever there are 'specialized' libraries.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Follow Friday: The Commons

The Commons

Flickr, the photo-sharing website, has a section they call The Commons. The Commons began in January of 2008 when The Library of Congress released about 1500 photographs from their collection to display on Flickr. Since then, The Library of Congress Flickr collection has grown to almost 9000 photographs. Several other libraries and museums have added photographs from their collections. If you search The Commons any photographs you find will be completely free of copyright restrictions. If you follow a link to the museum’s full collection on Flickr, leaving The Commons, some of those photographs may have copyright restrictions. The description of the photograph should indicate whether or not there are any restrictions.

[Note: The 1860s image of the
Jefferson Barracks military post just South of St. Louis, Missouri came from the New York Public Library collection at The Commons.]

For those seeking Civil War photos for Memorial Day - A search for the words "Civil War" produces over 1100 results.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When Traditional Methods Fail?

Charles Peden is a psychic medium (and an animal communicator)

He writes of two cases where he helped clients reconnect with ancestors, and solve some family mysteries.
All of this has led me to believe that when used properly, a good psychic medium can become an invaluable resource when researching ones family tree. When you really think about it, it’s incredible … the ability to connect with long lost relatives, discover true causes of death, unravel family mysteries and unearth “skeletons” in the closet.
It's conceivable some may not consider psychics one of the 'high quality sources' referenced in the Genealogical Proof Standard.  However, while I have only been researching for three years, I can see where a good psychic could be useful.

Would the source be primary, secondary, or derivative? 

[image: "Crystal Ball", by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)]

Monday, May 24, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Interview with Melvin Lester Newmark - December 1987

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, 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. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I begin the transcription of an interview of my paternal grandfather. In 1987, a professional oral historian was hired to conduct individual interviews with my grandparents. My paternal grandfather, Melvin Lester Newmark, was 75 years old at the time of his interview.

Below are the first ten minutes.

Note: I have contacted the oral historian, and while she thinks what I am doing is great, she desires not to be identified.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks --May 16 to May 22
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere

The British Library and Brightsolid partner to digitize up to 40 million pages of newspapers

Carolyn L Barkley, at Genealogy and Family History discusses Understanding a Coat of Arms beginning with the all-important message, "there is no such thing as a family coat of arms."  She discusses the history behind coats of arms, and how individuals go about getting them.

Laurence Harris at MyHeritage Blog provides 10 tips for interviewing family members.

Kate at ArchivesNext celebrates real citizen archivists.

Julie Cahill Tarr at GenBlog writes of the information found on army dog tags.

MyHeritage has released several "top lists" for genealogy blogs, each list focusing on blogs written in a particular language. (But they aren't doing a great job on cross-promoting them.)  Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers provides links to seven of the lists.

ProGenealogists updated their 50 Most Popular Genealogy Sites (based on the rankings of four companies that measure the popularity of websites.)

Martin Hollick at The Slovak Yankee questions the need for the term 'derivative sources.'

Elizabeth O'Neal at Little Bytes of Life has photographs from the trip she and her daughter took to the national convention for the Nationasl Society of Children of the American Revolution (a youth version of the DAR and SAR) A great way to get children interested in their ancestry.

Ron James for Associated Content writes an article on The Perils of Online Genealogy attacking the idea that you don't need to know what you're looking for, all you need to do is look.

The 29th Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy has been released.

Tana Pedersen at The Ancesty Blog has a post on how to indicate unmarried or childless relatives on their FamilyTreeMaker software.  This led a few people (including myself) to comment how one sources a "fact" for something that didn't happen.  Pedersen appears to imply that the reason to note they are unmarried or childess is to save others research time, but if your source is just a family member who says something didn't happen you may be encouraging yourself and others not to research paths that actually should be researched.

"Lineage Keeper" at FamHist has an entry on William Guyselman, a county recorder with a flair for artistry.

On the technology front:

Google has added the option of an encrypted web search protecting the data from third-parties.  The search doesn't include results from Google Images or Google Maps, but does include Google Books, News, and Blogs.

Other Weekly Lists
Amanuensis Monday: May 17th participants

Apple at Apple's Tree
Terri Buster at Southwest Arkie
Martin Hollick at The Slovak Yankee
Sherry Stocking Kline at FamilyTreeWriter
John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch
Heather Wikinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy
Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings
Kevin Walker at Who We Were, Are, & Will Be Our Family

If you participated, but don't appear on this list, please, let me know.

[I have been relying on a Google blogsearch for the word 'Amanuensis' to find all the entries.  This has worked well in the past.  But something weird is happening, and out of the 7 8 listed above, Google only finds 2 this week. I'm going to start flagging the ones I see in my RSS Reader, but if you are new to the meme, leave a comment on my Monday post, and I won't miss you.]

Monday's XKCD:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Follow Friday: RAOGK

Our volunteers have agreed to do a free genealogy research task at least once per month in their local area as an act of kindness. While the volunteers of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) have agreed to donate their time for free, you MUST PAY the volunteer for his/her expenses in fulfilling your request (copies, printing fees, postage, film or video tape, parking fees, etc.).
RAOGK is a global volunteer organization. With over 4000 volunteers in every U.S. state and many international locations, we have helped thousands of researchers. Our volunteers take time to do everything from looking up courthouse records to taking pictures of tombstones. All they ask in return is reimbursement for their expenses (never their time) and a thank you.
RAOGK would almost certainly be on my list of Top Ten Genealogy Resources.  I suspect I am not alone in this feeling.  Not everything is online - sometimes, like the celebrities on Who Do You Think You Are, we have to go to the local cemeteries, courthouses, and archives.  But we don't have their wealth, nor is our research being bankrolled by a major network.  So finding fellow researchers willing to do the local research is priceless.

[If you do end up using RAOGK volunteers repetitively, consider signing up yourself to be a volunteer.]

RAOGK wasn't listed in ProGenealogist's Top 50 Genealogy Sites.  Why not?  

Their list isn't subjective, but is based on the website rankings of four separate companies.  The July/Aug 2008 issue of the Digital Genealogist explained their methodology.  In this description, they note that of the four companies: "Typically their rankings are based on some combination of the number of visitors, number of pages visited, and the time spent on a Web site."  RAOGK's absence simply means that less people are visiting the site than the fifty sites on the list.  Does this mean most genealogists don't agree with me that this would be in their list of top sites?

No, it doesn't mean this.  I actually wasn't surprised by RAOGK's absence once I thought about it.  While I am indebted to the volunteers for what they have found for me, and I would definitely rank the website's value to me as a researcher higher than several other websites on the list, RAOGK isn't 'sticky.'

(Stickiness is the measurement of the amount of time spent on a website over a period of time.)  

Most people who frequent the website aren't returning every day.  We only visit the site when we need it.  And it doesn't take too long to find the location of our research, and whether or not there is a volunteer there.  Rankings that are based on how frequently a website is visited, or how long one remains on the website, are unable to measure the value received during those visits in any other way.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Genealogy Blogger Cousins

I've watched as several geneabloggers discovered they were cousins - hoping someday I and someone else would make a similar discovery.

[I've found several cousins interested in genealogy - but none of them were in the blogging community as well.]

I still haven't found a GBC, but I've come close.

Eliza Jane Van Every, a second cousin of mine, four times removed, married the first cousin, five times removed, of Sharon of Kindred Footprints.  So Sharon and I are both related to the offspring of Eliza and Rev. Frederick Haynes, but we aren't cousins to each other.

When she discovered a Van Every in her tree, she contacted me.  That's one of the benefits of blogging repeatedly on the same surname.  I was able to quickly find Eliza Jane in my copy of The Records of the Van Every Family (Mary Blackadar Piesol, 1947)

Sharon recently made a trip to Niagara, and visited Warner Cemetery (among other sites).  She took several photographs of the Van Every plot and shared them with me.  A kind RAOGK photographer had already sent me a photograph of the tombstone of my ancestor, McGregory Van Every, but Sharon sent me several other photographs for which I am thankful.

If you have interest in the Niagara area, Sharon has posted photographs from her trip here and here.

ProGenealogists Most Popular Genealogy Websites

Using "four major ranking" companies for websites, ProGenealogists has come out with the 2010 list of the 50 Most Popular Genealogy Websites

They show the rankings for 2009 and 2008 as well, and for the most part, the names are the same, it is only the order that has changed.  There are some newcomers, providing resources it's possible some haven't seen yet.  [I like the fact they know the numbers for 2008 and 2009 for the newcomers, indicating they have been recording the numbers for far more than the Top 50.]

USGenWebArchives is marked 'new' appearing for the first time at #8.  (However, this isn't entirely new, as USGenWeb is listed as having 'dropped' off the list, from #30 last year.)

Other sites new to the Top 50 list include:
FamilyLink at #2 (up from #80 in 2009)
GenealogyBuff at #27 (up from #134 in 2009)
Archives at #41 (not ranked in 2009)

There are more new sites...visit the list to see them.

I was somewhat surprised to see that Footnote dropped from #9 to #37.  It was my opinion that they had been adding a lot to their archives in the past year.  There were a couple of other websites in the top 10 last year, that are below #30 this year.

All in all, a very interesting list, and I look forward to seeing what happens in 2011.  There are definitely a few websites on the list I need to investigate further.


I am also hopeful they plan to update their 2009 list of the 25 Most Popular Genealogy Blogs. I suspect there will be some newcomers to that list, too.

Religion and Genealogy

Etiquette tells us to avoid discussion of Politics and Religion. However, a family historian's role is to research and tell the life stories of ancestors, and their collateral kin. Religion and Politics often play a central role in those life stories. Defenestration of the core beliefs our ancestors held goes against the entire purpose of our pursuit.

[Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The term was coined around the time of two incidents in Prague Castle in the years 1419 and 1618. The first was politically-motivated, and the second was religiously motivated. So the word is appropriate for several reasons.]

I'll leave Politics for a different day. Today, I'd like to discuss religion, as today is Shavuot on the Jewish calendar - the holiday commemorating the handing down of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.

It's possible one or two readers, who know me and my family only through this blog, may have been slightly confused by combinations of blog posts which have hinted at an obvious diversity present in my ancestry that isn't present in every family. My paternal ancestry is Jewish as far back as anyone knows. My mother's paternal ancestry is Jewish as far back as anyone knows. My mother's maternal ancestry, however, contains Puritans, Mennonites, Methodists, Lutherans, Choctaws and Cherokee. [The last two are unproven, though I have no doubts from the testimony provided in front of The Dawes Commission, that my Hartley ancestors believed they had fairly recent Native American blood.]

If I talk about my ancestry, I could say it is 75% Jewish, and 25% a mixture of Christian and Native American religions. However, that is my ancestry. I, personally, am 100% Jewish. Just as I am 100% American, even though my non-Native American ancestry comes from all over Eastern and Western Europe. I had a small problem with the title of the genealogy series NBC recently imported from England (Who Do You Think You Are). I know who I am. I am interested in finding out more concerning my ancestors, but that won't change my identity.

How do I handle my diverse ancestry in my research?

How should I handle it?  I am equally interested in the tombstones of my second great grandfather, Moshe Leyb Cruvant (1857-1911), and my more distant ancestor, Barnabas Horton (1600-1680), despite their disparate beliefs.

Many of my ancestors of various religious faiths arrived in America, fleeing from religious persecution. Brothers Myndert (1636-1706) and Carsten Frederickse (1638-1688) helped found the first Lutheran church in Albany, New Netherland. Israel Swayze (1753-1844) hosted Methodist church meetings in his Beaverdams, Ontario home. Rev. Henry Rosenberger (1725-1809) was a Mennonite minister in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. While all of different religious faiths, religion played a central role in each of their lives.  Just as it does mine, though perhaps to a slightly less degree. 

In my Jewish family history research I wasn't too surprised when I uncovered a handful of variations on Sholom Aleichem's heartbreaking story of Tevye and his daughter, Chava - intermarriages that led to a severing of family ties. These occurred primarily among children of those who immigrated between 1880-1900. Later intermarriages didn't lead to the same result. What did surprise me was the discovery of a hint of something in the distant past of one branch of my maternal grandmother's tree.

At the end of his introduction to A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Henry Rosenberger of Franconia, Montgomery Co. Pa; Together with Historical and Biographical Sketches (1906) author, Rev. Abraham James Fretz, writes,
"Note. — There is no doubt that Henry Rosenberger, Sr., of Franconia. was the pioneer emigrant, and that he in common with other Mennonites fled from Germany on account of religious persecution. Of the earlier history of the family...we know nothing. We have seen Rosenbergers direct from Austria and Germany and one Rosenberg from Prussia. One of the former from Austria claimed to be of an old Austrian Rosenberger stock, and were Jews. The last mentioned Rosenberg, from Prussia, was also a Jew."
Fretz appears to have conducted a 'surname study' and interviewed anybody he could find with the Rosenberger name, doing his best to connect anyone he could. He may have been unable to connect these Jewish branches, but felt obliged to indicate they existed, and let the family draw their own conclusions. Any historical 'tribal ties', though, may be too far in the past for research to uncover.

Religion in general has long fascinated me.  In college I took several courses studying Eastern religions, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Native American theology.  Since I am confident nothing I find in my research will change my own beliefs, there is no reason for me to fear researching the beliefs of my ancestors.  On the contrary, learning 'what made them tick' helps me to better understand who they were.  In short, when I research my ancestors, I throw nothing out of the window.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Obituaries

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, 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. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I am transcribing the obituaries of three great grandparents - Herman and Anna Feinstein, and Barney Newmark.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks --May 9 to May 15
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings, Apple at Apple's Tree, and Greta Koehl at Greta's Genealogy Bog wrote about the pros and cons of online family trees.

There has been some discussion on the decision making process behind MyHeritage's choices for their Top 100 Genealogy Sites.  Linda McCauley at Documenting the Details, Becky Wiseman at Kinexxions, James Tanner at Genealogy's Star, and concerning the Dutch version of the awards, GIJS at GIJS' GeneaLog, there is an English translation in the comments.  (hat/tip to TamuraJones for tweeting about GIJS' post).

Martin Hollick at The Slovak Yankee 'jumps the aisle from genealogist to family historian' and writes of Finding a Narrative from a Deed.

Karen at Genealogy Frame of Mind discusses the Obituary Spreadsheet she is creating in preparation for a trip.

Dawn Watson at Genealogy Research: A Hobby or an Obsession discusses a pet peeve -- those who omit jurisdictional designations.  If you don't specify 'City' or 'County' it is very easy to be misunderstood.  You will find in many states that the same name is used for both a city and a county, miles apart from one another.  There's also a Missouri City, Texas and a Texas County, Missouri. 

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings discusses the Encyclopedia of Genealogy and how to add to it.

Earline Hines Bradt of Ancestral Notes writes about how to join the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada. One of these days, I may go through that process.

Daniel Hubbard at Personal Past Meditations writes on judging a book by its innards.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. joined the staff of as an advisor.

On the technology front of possible interest:

The National Archives has added machine tags to all their photos on Flickr.

Google is adding text-to-speech for more languages on Google Translate allowing you to hear the translations.

Mike Wilkerson at Blogger's Bug talks about the Universal Subtitles movement

Other Weekly Lists
Amanuensis Monday: May 10th participants

Apple at Apple's Tree
Terri Buster at Southwest Arkie
Martin Hollick at The Slovak Yankee 
Kim at Ancestors of Mine from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Beyond
Sherry Stocking Kline at Sumter County Kansas History and Genealogy
John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch
Heather Wikinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy
Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings

If you participated, but don't appear on this list, let me know.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Neil Gaiman, Truth, and Verifiability

Neil Gaiman poses an interesting ethical dilemma on his blog.

Gaiman is a fantasy and science fiction author. Some of his well-known works include The Sandman comics, and the novels Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and American Gods.

He's a bit elliptic in the post, but apparently, when writing the novel, American Gods, he made something up.  Authors often do that, especially in works of fiction.  Then someone wrote a reference book on something, and borrowing largely from his novel, wrote about this thing Gaiman made up as fact.

And now the Wikipedia article on this something from the novel, which used to correctly cite Gaiman as the source, now no longer mentions Gaiman at all.  It now treats this made up thing as fact, and cites the reference work.

Gaiman knows how Wikipedia works, and knows he can't just 'fix it.'  Because in the world of Wikipedia - "Verifiability" is more important than "Truth."  And "Original Research" is frowned upon.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.
Wikipedia does not publish original research. The term "original research" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—not already published by reliable sources. It also refers to any analysis or synthesis by Wikipedians of published material, where the analysis or synthesis advances a position not advanced by the sources. - (emphasis theirs - follow the links above for more details)
There's already a source that says this something is fact.  He realizes he needs to create a source that says it's fiction - his fiction.  So - he says...He could create a blog post that explains how he made this thing up, and then cite that.  He wonders if he should.

He somewhat likes the notion, in a twisted-author-sense I think I understand, that something he made up is now considered a fact.

However, he doesn't progress his problem one step further.  What happens on Wikipedia when he creates his explanatory blog entry, and then fixes the Wikipedia entry, saying he made this something up, and then cites his own blog entry as evidence?

Does anyone with experience editing Wikipedia believe they'll let him get away with that?  Yes, Gaiman says it's the truth.  But that's irrelevant.  In the world of verifiability the "reference work" is probably more reliable than he is. [Note, Gaiman doesn't provide the nature of the reference work, so this is an assumption.] 

Gaiman can write his blog post, but until some other equally reliable reference cites this something as his creation, only then will there be a way to 'verify' that he is the creator.

[He could also try to get the author/publisher of the reference work to publish a corrected edition, and that I suspect would be sufficient.]


A good genealogist would likely not take Neil Gaiman's word for it either.  But, when he points out that American Gods has an earlier publication date than the reference work, it would suggest the need for further research.  We could, for example, search Google Books for an earlier reference, and without finding one, grant that he is likely correct that he invented it.  But this is 'original research.'  Something genealogists do a lot of, and Wikipedians aren't supposed to do.

Update  Neil Gaiman has found several more references to his made up fact in his own Google Books search, along with many other online references.  So he's not up against only one source.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Follow Friday: Texas State Library and Archives Commission

If your research takes you through Texas, you may want to visit the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, particularly their County Records Available on Microfilm.

The records are extensive, including vital statistics, probate records, naturalization records, and more. The microfilm can be borrowed through any public or private library that offers inter-library loan services.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

TransylvanianDutch chosen as 1 of 100 Top Genealogy Sites

MyHeritage has come up with a list of the "Top 100 Genealogy Sites," and has included TransylvanianDutch among its honorees.  We are pleased to wear the below badge.

Top genealogy site awards
Their naming of the list is slightly misleading.  From their list, it's obvious their focus, with some exceptions, was on genealogy bloggers.  (I wouldn't expect to be listed on a top-100 list if the list wasn't focused on bloggers.)  And when they say in their description  
"We put a focus on finding hidden gems in the community, so there's a good chance that some of these are sites you won't have seen before."
They mean they left out of their selection the not-so-hidden gems.  Which explains why several top-name genealogy bloggers aren't on the list. 

Regardless, I am still honored to be in their list.  I played around with their facial recognition software a lot a couple years ago.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Amanuensis - Why?

It's been awhile since I posted this explanation of Amanuensis Monday.  Since there has been an uptick in participation recently, and since it is Preservation Week, I thought I would do it again.  With some small additions to what I've said in the past. 

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

* Is there a letter, journal entry, speech, other document, or audio recording, written or delivered by or about an ancestor you wish to transcribe for future generations?
* Are you engaged in a transcription project of an historical document?

This is what Amanuensis Monday was created for. Amanuensis is an obscure word, but it derives from the Latin, ‘Manu’ meaning ‘hand’.

Why transcribe?

1) Handwriting fades over time. As long as one continues to back up digital documents, they won't fade. (This is an advantage to both scanning and transcribing.)

2) Text can be searched. If you have word documents on your computer that contain transcribed letters, and you put a name into your computer's search function, it will find the name in the letter. This won't happen if the letter is a scanned image. Nor will it work for an audio recording.

3) You may find while transcribing, that you notice important details you overlooked when reading/listening to the original.  The act of transcription forces you to focus on every word.

These are the primary reasons that are compelling me in my transcriptions, and why I encourage others to do so as well.

(Before posting your transcriptions to your blog/website, please consider published works are possibly under copyright if originally published after 1923 in the US. The current minimum in countries adhering to the Berne Convention is fifty years after an author's death, though several nations go beyond this minimum. The copyright status of unpublished works such as letters can vary, though it is the author who retains the copyright, not the recipient.)

One final note. For anyone wondering where the definition I use at the top comes from.  Almost fifteen months have passed since my first Amanuensis post.  However, it's possibly a hybrid of the definitions in The National Standard Encyclopedia (1888) and A Scholar's Companion (1873).

Amanuensis Monday: Letter from Margaret Van Every - October 1917

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, 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. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I transcribe a letter (or likely two letters) written by my great grandmother Margaret (Denyer) Van Every (1868-1923). The letter was written on ruled paper which was folded into an envelope, but the envelope was lost, and only 1/3 or 2/3 of some pages remain. All the pages were stored together, but there's only one salutation, and two closings, so I suspect it was two letters, but it's unclear when the second was sent.  (Though there are some clues.)

1917 was an important year for the Van Every clan.  Melvin and Margaret (Denyer) Van Every had moved approximately 600 miles from San Marcos to Fabens, Texas (near El Paso) - with the warranty deed purchasing the land dated July 27.  Their youngest child, my grandmother, Myrtle, was 17. All their other children were living on their own - son, Samuel, age 31, had just been married in March, in Jacksonville, FL. Their daughters, Minnie, age 33, and Evelyn, age 25, were living somewhere in Texas - exact location uncertain.  The one letter was addressed to Minnie, and I suspect the other one was as well.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Digital Preservation Week

The American Library Association, Library of Congress and other partners have launched Digital Preservation Week.

Every week is Preservation Week for many genealogists.  But if you need a reason, or extra encouragement, to scan, record, transcribe, or organize - here it is.

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks --May 2 to May 8
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers has written a primer on Copyright and Collaborative Family Trees explaining what parts of your genealogy research you actually have a copyright on, and what to do when your work is stolen, including providing contact information for the major collaborative websites (Ancestry, Geni, WeRelate, and MyHeritage).

Thomas has been busy.  On Destination: Austin Family, he reshares That Month of Three - a touching poem he wrote in 2008 about his mother.  And for those who like numbers and graphs, he also has an analysis of WDYTYA ratings at High Definition Genealogy.

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings updates his list of unindexed databases.  Since they are unindexed, the Ancestry search engine doesn't search them.  You have to manually browse the images, and to do that, you need to know they're there.  As Randy says, it would be nice if Ancestry provided a list themselves.

Lynn Palermo at The Armchair Genealogist writes about Doors Open Ontario - an annual event in Ontario, where communities open their doors to their heritage sites.  Those with ancestral connections in Ontario considering a genealogy vacation should see which weekends the communities they're interested in are opening their doors.

The Social Security Administration has released their 2009 list of top baby names.

Lisa Louise Cooke at Genealogy Gems News has created a video illustrating how changes at Google will improve your search results.

James Tanner at Genealogy's Star writes of Doing Genealogy in the Cloud, describing what Cloud Computing means, and how it is a useful advance for genealogists (and others).

Kimberly Powell at Kimberly's Genealogy Blog begins a comparison of the DNA services offered by FamilyTreeDNA and 23andme.

On a visit to Ellis Island, the attention of Martin Hollick of The Slovak Yankee was captured by a plaque explaining what happened to unescorted women and children.  Most of the unescorted women and children in my ancestry arrived at Castle Garden or Baltimore; I am curious if they had similar policies.

Diane Haddad at FamilyTreeInsider announces FamilyTreeMagazine's new educational endeavor Family Tree University.

Jasia at CreativeGene published the 93rd Carnival of Genealogy filled with How-to instructionals.  The theme for the 94th Carnival will be The Changing Role of Women.  The deadline is June first, and more information can be found on her blog.

Elyse Doerflinger at Elyse's Genealogy Blog asks Are Genealogists Meant to Lack Answers?  Is it human nature not to ask questions until it's too late?

Olive Tree Genealogy writes about How Easy it is To Be Fooled, and the importances of source citation.

Liz Haigney Lynch at The Ancestral Archaeologist writes of how she got her mother to talk, once she stopped calling it an interview.

The JewishGen Blog announced some improvements to their Viewmate service. "ViewMate is the JewishGen service where participants submit letters, documents and photos for translation and to identify people, clothing, artifacts, etc."

Other Weekly Lists
Amanuensis Monday: May 3rd participants

Terri Buster at Southwest Arkie
Joan Hill at Roots'n'Leaves
John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch
Heather Wikinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy
Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings

If you participated, but don't appear on this list, let me know.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

SNGF: Matrilineal Line

For his weekly Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver at Geneamusings challenged:
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1) List your matrilineal line - your mother, her mother, etc. back to the first identifiable mother. Note: this line is how your mitochondrial DNA was passed to you!

2) Tell us if you have had your mitochondrial DNA tested, and if so, which Haplogroup you are in.
Perhaps he came up with this idea because tomorrow is Mother's Day?

a) Me - John C. Newmark (1969 - )
b) (classified)
c) Myrtle Van Every (1900-1951) married Martin Joel Deutsch (1907-1991)
d) Margaret Jane McAlpin Monteroy Denyer (1868-1923) married Melvin Elijah Van Every (1863-1929)
e) Sarah Ann Hartley (1836-1898) married Ebenezer Ophan Denyer (1828-1872)
f) Eliza Beasley (?-?) married George W. Hartley (?-?)

The names of Eliza Beasley and George W. Hartley come from the Dawes Commission testimony of Sarah's brother Samuel Tillman Hartley.  And that is where my knowledge ends.

My mother has had her mtDNA tested and she was in Haplogroup U5 (Clan Ursula) - This suggests a possible origin in Northern Europe - such as Sweden, Norway, or Finland.  This discovery didn't disprove that Sarah Hartley was part Choctaw (she allegedly claimed to be 1/8), but it does suggest that her brother's claim in front of the Dawes Commission that their mother was 100% Native American (1/2 Choctaw, 1/2 Cherokee) was inaccurate.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Follow Friday: Footnote's Newspaper Archive

I am focusing on free resources for my Follow Friday series, and Footnote isn't free.  However, for the month of May, they are providing free access to their newspaper archive.

It's an opportunity you may not want to miss.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg

Steve Luxenberg’s mother was an only child. She worked that fact into many conversations, even with people she had barely met. Her family didn’t think it strange that she did so; it was just a part of who she was.

When Steve finds out his mother had a sister, his shock as a son, as well as his training as a reporter, compels him to research the mystery. He is determined not only to figure out the Who, What, When, Where and How – but also the Why. When he begins the research sixty years have passed since his aunt was institutionalized. She is deceased, and so are both of his parents. And he realizes he is racing against time to find the right people to ask the right questions.

Along the way he uncovers more family secrets. They propel his research to Detroit, Michigan, and through the history and bureaucracy of Michigan’s institutions for individuals with mental retardation and mental illness. They lead him from Radziwillow, Russia, where a cousin escaped the Holocaust, to the Philippines, where his father served during World War II, to Ellis Island.  They take him through the letters his parents wrote to each other, and through his own childhood memories.  The reader follows, often horrified, saddened, or intrigued by what is revealed. 
Who knew? Who didn’t? Both questions needed to be answered for a complete portrait. The artist’s challenge was mine as well: To get the composition right. I had to master the negative space as well as the positive; to paint what was absent as well as what was present. (page 65)
This is Luxenberg’s first book, but that is misleading.  He is not unskilled with the written word, as he has been a senior editor at the Washington Post for over two decades. The emotional conflict between the duties of a reporter and those of a son play out in the pages.

Much of the book will be familiar to a genealogist. We’re accustomed to uncovering these mysteries, though we may not be as skilled in some of the investigational techniques. I was impressed with what I learned from the book. (See below.)

I don't read many memoirs, but Luxenberg immediately was able to grab my attention, and hold it until the end.  The elements of mystery and genealogy research are undoubtedly the glue which kept me hooked, however I suspect regular readers of memoirs will find the emotional impact of the revelations satisfying.  My only frustrations during reading were the ones I shared with Luxenberg, over the bureaucratic red tape, and the fading human recollections.

Some readers may feel the descriptions aren't sufficient, and wish more of the documents referenced were presented in the book for us to look at. There is a fix for this, though. Luxenberg has created a website where he has uploaded many of these documents, as well as some additional ones not mentioned in the book. I recommend not visiting the website until after you’ve finished reading, as there are some potential spoilers. In both what is presented there, and perhaps more importantly to some readers, what is absent.

Finally, there are a few appendices worth mentioning.  First, he includes some extensive chapter notes. There is also a list of "Family Members and Recurring Figures."  This cast of characters will prove useful to many readers, and if you're a reader who tends to skip over the table of contents, you're not likely to see it until after you're finished.

A Few Research Tips I Learned

1) Don’t Lead the Witness

I didn’t really learn this from Luxenberg, it’s more like I was reminded. I come from a family of lawyers, so the phrase was familiar. But it is important to remember when interviewing people, whether they are on a witness stand, or sitting across from you at the dinner table. People’s memories are a funny thing, and if you ask them, “Do you remember X?” they may suddenly think they are able to.

2) New Resources

Luxenberg used a few resources that were new to me.

A) Morning Reports

Many US World War II personnel records were destroyed in a 1973 fire, but these weren’t.
MORNING REPORTS are created each morning, as the name implies. They are an "exception based" system, only containing information on those individuals who are not "Present and Accounted for". Among the reasons for being listed on a morning report are: Promotion or demotion; Being killed, wounded or missing in action; Being assigned to a unit, or leaving a unit; Going to a hospital for treatment, or to another activity for training [quote from National Archives page linked to above]
Morning Reports are available from 1912-1974 for the US Army, and 1947-1966 for the Air Force.

B) 1940-2000 census records – Age Search Service

It’s a well-repeated maxim that the US census is closed to the public until 72 years have passed. This maxim, while generally true, hides an important exception. You can ask the census bureau for a transcription of your own census details. And after you are deceased, so can (1) a blood relative in the immediate family (parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent), (2) the surviving wife or husband, (3) the administrator or executor of the estate, or (4) a beneficiary by will or insurance.

This can be expensive. It’s $65 for a “census transcript” which will list the person’s name, relationship to household head, age at the time of the census, state of birth, and citizenship if the person was foreign born. An additional $10 for a “Full Schedule” containing the complete one-line entry for a single person.  Offhand, I can't think of any personal mysteries that this will help me solve. However, despite the cost and the restrictions, this could prove useful to some.


1) The publisher provided me with a review copy. This is standard practice for professional reviewers, but since I am not one, I feel I should disclose this.

2) Since I do have an Amazon Associates account, and used it for the below "Buy From Amazon" links, anyone who follows those links and makes a purchase from Amazon will be helping me earn a small referral fee. This doesn't add to your cost in any way. And if you wish to purchase it from Barnes and Noble, Borders, or a local independent bookseller, the choice is yours.

The paperback is being
released May 11, 2010,
but can be pre-ordered.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Funeral Card of Samuel Van Every (1820-1888)

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, 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. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

Recently a contact I made with a cousin in Texas resulted in the discovery of the funeral card of Samuel Van Every, my second great grandfather:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks -- April 25 to May 1
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere

Several bloggers have been spending the week at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Salt Lake City.  One of the announcements to come out of that conference is that is developing a Mac version of their FamilyTreeMaker software.  (hat/tip: AnceStories). 

Diane Haddad at The Genealogy Insider provided pictures of the NGS group viewing of the final episode of Who Do You Think You Are.  She also provides a summary of the episode, and a list of a few statistics they learned about what went into the making of the show

Randy Seaver at GeneaMusings discussed a presentation he attended on The Future of Genealogy Collaboration.

The April issue of Shades of the Departed Magazine has been released.

Denise Barrett Olson at The Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal discusses how to build a cemetery photo archive.

English geneticist, Paul Nurse's recent discovery teaches us where genealogy research should always begin - oneself.  For most of us, our birth certificate will confirm what our parents told us.  But at age 61, his did not.  (Read more at The MyHeritage Blog)

Dan Curtis has 25 No Cost or Low Cost Marketing Ideas for your Personal History Business.

Thomas MacEntee at High-Definition Genealogy has developed a Genealogy Source Citation Quick Reference Card.  Which may be of much help for those confused by source citatons.  I know I tend to use the MLA method, as that is what I learned in school.  But other methods are illustrated.

Monday, May 10th, is Personal Archiving Day at the Library of Congress.  May 9-15 is Preservation Week.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti, at Tracing the Tribe, discussed a new resource to me, Scirus.  "the most comprehensive scientific research tool on the web. With over 370 million scientific items indexed at last count, it allows researchers to search for not only journal content but also scientists' homepages, courseware, pre-print server material, patents and institutional repository and website information."  For genealogists, if you have relatives in the science fields, you may find this particularly useful.  Though the database does cover more than just science, as I found references to relatives who are lawyers and some in artistic fields. [search it yourself].

If your research takes you to New York, you will want to look at Steven Lasky's list of Searchable Cemetery Databases in the New York Metro Area at the Museum of Family History.

Roy Tennant at the Library Journal noticed that it had been awhile since the Wayback Machine archive had been updated.  The Wayback Machine is an amazing resource for seeing what webpages used to look like, but he couldn't find archives more recent than August 2008 for websites such as Microsoft and Amazon.  He received a comment from someone at Wayback that confirmed they are behind in updating, but they have the data, and they are working on a new version that will be released in 'the summer.'

Luckie Daniels at Our Georgia Roots had to write some posts this week, she would rather not have written.  Apparently she has been harassed online by another genealogy blogger who refused to listen to the word 'stop.'  She had a follow-up post on Community Advocacy.  Thomas MacEntee suggested a Geneabloggers Code of Conduct, which has received a lot of commentary pro and con.

Matt Quinn at Poemblaze has a humorous poem entitled Genetic Counseling about a somewhat lazy, but at least honest, genealogist.

Animal Rights group, PETA, purchased ad space on some cremation urns.

The ACLU is supporting a congressional bill to eliminate gene patents.

Other Weekly/Monthly Lists
Amanuensis Monday: April 26th participants

Jo Lee Archer Arnspiger at Those Who Went Before 
Terri Buster at Southwest Arkie
Joan Hill at Roots'n'Leaves
Sherry Stocking Kline at Family Tree Writer
Kim at Ancestors of Mine from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Beyond
John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch
Heather Wikinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy

If you participated, but don't appear on this list, let me know.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day, May Day!

Holidays on May 1st

May Day  which has its traditional origins in the Celtic holiday of Beltane and the Germanic holiday of Walpurgis Night.

International Worker's Day [aka Labo(u)r Day] which has its origins in Chicago's Haymarket Affair. [Chicago Historical Society's Haymarket Affair Digital Collection]

Loyalty Day - a holiday created in America in the 1950s to 'counter-balance' International Worker's Day.

MayDay - "an initiative to protect cultural heritage from disasters." (hat/tip to Ancestories, as I was unfamiliar with this initiative.)

Note: the distress call "Mayday!" actually derives from the French word m'aider - meaning "come help me."