Saturday, August 25, 2012

Citing Sources....Lessons Learned

The other day, I watched several webinars that covered citing sources...

Citing Sources ( with Anne Mitchell, and part two here.   I also watched "The 5c's for Success in Genealogy Today" with Barbara Renick.  Anne provided a great tip, which if I had remembered my secretarial days, I would have thought of myself.  Basically, use templates to help you cite your common sources, like census records.  Why constantly work to come up with the right format, when you can use a preformatted template, and just change a few key parts to fit the particular census you are citing (date, place, etc).  I HIGHLY recommend you watch the videos, especially if you are just starting out in genealogy, and documenting your family history.

While Barbara's webinar wasn't specifically about citing sources, the last part she did, covering this topic, hit home for me.  We all have things from our beginning days as family researchers, where we just went willy nilly, collecting information without noting where it came from.  I have a recent example.....

Not long ago, I read somewhere that the border between NY and CT, near where my great grandfather was born, was very fluid for a long time.  This would involve Westchester county in NY, and Fairfield county in CT.  I think I remember it saying that if someone was actually born in Rye or Poundridge NY, which is so close to the Fairfield county border, before 1870, that their records would be in Fairfield county.  I say "I think" because, I forgot to save the link, or even copy and paste the information for future use.  Now I can't remember where I read it.  Drats!!!

Barbara shared a "chant" that was taught to her in a course...I am adopting it as my mantra:

When looking at ANY information, follow these steps:

1. FIND the source of information
2. CITE the source (don't read it until you do this!!!  Even if there is no useable information that applies to your research.  You will have a record that you already looked at that particular source).
3. SEARCH the source
4. COPY the source....write down any information you find that is relevant to your research, or copy/paste into a digital research notebook (I prefer OneNote).
5. EVALUATE the source - is it a primary source or derivative?  How reliable is the source?
6. REPEAT all the above steps and collect more information.  Never rely on just one source in your research.
7. ANALYZE and ADD - analyze the information you have found, and when you are sure of your findings, then add it to your family tree information.  

Now, I will admit, that if I find something on Ancestry or Family Search, that is pretty clear cut, I automatically add it to that person in my online tree.  The reason for this is because my Ancestry tree is my "working" tree.  It is always in a state of being updated, changed, etc.  When I am pretty sure of a fact, I put the information, with sources to back it up, into my online tree (noting that it might need more research).  I don't transfer it to my tree in Roots Magic until I can verify it ...within reason. Sometimes you only have once source.  If I feel it is accurate (which is a complete judgement call), I will add it to my master tree in my program on the computer.  

And sometimes, I add things to my shoebox on Ancestry.  Things that look like they might be a help, but need more analysis.  By doing this I am still keeping the record handy.  I have had times where I have found something, took a mental note of it, but didn't save it, and then couldn't find it again.  This goes back to citing your sources....always find a way to save what you find, whether it's online or on your own computer.  Something as simple as a Word document can be invaluable.  Write out what you find, paste a link to where you found out, and save it for future reference.  It always amazes me, when I look at notes I took 10 years ago, what my thought process was.  And many times I see things right there in front of my face, that I didn't see back then.

Both Anne and Barbara mentioned using a tool called Snag-It.  This can be a bit pricey at $50 if you are on a budget.  But I like the will snag what is on a webpage.  All of it.  Unlike the normal screen capture (PrtScrn) on your computer, which will only grab what is visible in the screen.  I can't afford that $50 at the moment though, so I did a search for free options. The one that I will give a try is called ScreenHunter Free.  Cnet gives it extremely high ratings, and that is a bonus.  I will update you down the road as to how I think it works.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wedding Wednesday - What's In A Name?

Thanks to Family Search obtaining Vermont Vital records, the Blanchard side of my family has opened up ten-fold.  I recently found out that my great grandfather Charles Forrest Blanchard was not always married to my great grandmother Lucy Ann Riley.  In the Family Search records, it clearly shows that he was married twice before:

First to Rose A Ashley on 25 Dec 1886
    Source Citation: "Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 April 2012), Luther W. Blanchard in entry for Charlie F. Blanchard and Rose A. Ashley (1886).

Then to Lucy A Eastman in 1891
      Source Citation: "Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 April 2012), Charles F. Blanchard (1871).

But then he married my great grandmother Lucy Ann Riley.  Based on the age of their oldest child, Charles T. in the 1900 census, I estimated their marriage to be around 1894-1895.  But I couldn't find a record of it.  I had a gentleman on Ancestry actually argue with me about my findings, claiming that there was no way. But there it was, in black and white.  There are no other Charles Forrest Blanchard's that I have found in Vermont at that time, with a father named Luther and a mother named Lydia.  So this leads me to believe that I am on the right trail.

Then something weird happened.  I found a census record for a Stephen T. Riley in Vermont, with a wife named Grace E. and a daughter named Lucy Ann.  I punched it into my tree with the hope that something would show up in the shaky leaf hints.  Nothing, after several weeks.

I did a search for Stephen, but all I kept coming up with was a Thomas Riley with the same birth date.  Just out of curiosity yesterday, I tried searching Family Search for Thomas Riley.  And poof....there it was.......

Source Citation: "Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 Aug 2012), Thomas S. Riley in entry for Charles F. Blanchard and Lucy A. Riley, 1892.

The proof I was looking for to show the marriage date of my great grandparents.  They were married July 10th, 1892. And then on top of that, I found out that for whatever reason, most of Lucy Ann's fathers life, he went by Thomas, not Stephen.  I can only guess why he showed up in the census that one time with Stephen....did he have a son of the same name?  Did someone other than a family member give the info?  Did the census taker just swap the names by accident?  Who knows.  But it has opened up two other family lines....the Riley's (paternal of Lucy Ann) and the Kathan's (maternal of Lucy Ann).

I haven't searched to find out what happened to the first two wives....illness causing death?  Another adventure to add to my "to do" list! Right now I am busy getting my files in order and trying NOT to get off track.  Finding rabbit trails like this though make it awfully tempting lol.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getting Back In the Groove

My boys officially started back to school on Monday.  This is a bit early, even for us homeschoolers, but with my dad's illness back in the spring, we lost a lot of time, so I wanted to get a jumpstart on it.

So what does mom do while the boys are working on their schoolwork?  I am formulating a plan of attack....attacking my best options for setting up my files here in the apartment I am sharing with my aunt.  Attacking my education, which path I want to take.

As for the education side of things, I am currently getting caught up on some free webinars.  Today I just watched Thomas MacEntee's "The Genealogy Cloud - Which Online Storage Is For You", at Legacy Family Tree.  It said it was to expire on 8/6, but I was still able to access it.  Wow!  I took 6 pages of notes on the info he gave, and have some decisions to make after I check out all the options.

I haven't worked on my Research binder for awhile, so I need to update that as well.

I also found a great checklist, that I will be filling out for each person of my family tree, to make sure that I do not miss anything in collecting documents.  I tend to go willy-nilly sometimes, and need to reighn myself in, and be more methodical.  Step by step is much better than rabbit trails.

As for the file storage....I will use my file boxes for now, but am searching out Craigslist for at least a 2 drawer filing cabinet.  I would prefer a 4 drawer one, but might have to wait for that.  If I can't find one there, I will buy one next month.

What are you "attacking" at the moment?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

1940 Census Searchable On Ancestry

I might be a day or so behind, as I just checked my gmail account for genealogy stuff, but Ancestry has indexed all of the 1940 census, and it is now searchable.

This was a huge thing for me, because whenever I tried the tricks offered using the street name and enumeration district from the 1930 census, I came up empty.  In my searches, I could not for the life of me, find East Meadow Street in the 1940 census.  Stamford, CT was a big city back then, being a huge boom town since the late 1800's, and the massive immigration of the Irish.  There was no way I was going to through, page by page by page, to find them.  So I waited.  Sometimes patiently lol.

This one contains my grandfather, Gordon E. Nichols and his family.  Including my great grandfather Arthur E. Nichols, who passed away later in 1940.  I am glad he was still alive for the census, although I suspect he was probably already sick.
(Source: 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.)

I did make a correction to the transcribing, as they were listed as "Nicholas".  I can't blame the wonderful indexer, as the handwriting on this one is not great (big surprise there, wonder if they ever thought to make the census takers do a handwriting course).

And this is my grandfather Mayo H. Blanchard, and his family.  He is always pretty easy to find, due to his unusual name. I also made a small correction to the transcribing on this one, as my uncle's name is Alfred, not "Affred".  That was the census taker's fault.

(Source: 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.)

My father and mother will not show up in the 1940 census, as they were born 1942 and 1943, respectively.  But many of my aunts and uncles are there. It is kind of funny to see them as little children.  I want to do nothing more than spend the day working to find others, but I must get my homeschool planning done for my boys first, since we begin the new year on Monday.

I will be definitely getting my files set up so that I can get back to searching, as soon as I possibly can.

And I just want to take a minute to thank all those wonderful volunteers who have worked so hard to make the 1940 census available to all of us.  It is so appreciated!