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.