Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Genealogy Analogy: Do You Get it Now?

If you think of your Family Tree as a House ...
then Sources, Citations and your Analysis are the nails, mortar or glue that hold everything together. Without Sources, Citations and your Analysis your Family Tree may collapse like a House of Cards.

A Family Tree can be like a House of Cards ...
no use of Sources, Citations, & Analysis can lead to a Family Tree Collapse. Don't Build a "Tree of Cards."
I don't know if anyone else has thought of this analogy but it has been running through my mind lately.

P.S. I thought it would take longer but it took less than 15 minutes to build this house of cards and I haven't built one in many, many years. The time for my family tree is another story ...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Digging for the Date of Added/Updated Databases in New Search now Primary Search

One aspect I preferred in the "Old Search" experience was that information or details seemed to be more in the open. With "New Search" or as started calling it today "Primary Search" those details seem more buried and require digging to find what should be visible.

Have you ever checked to see what database collections have been recently added or updated?

From the Main Search page in Old Search one would scroll to the bottom on the page and select the "recently added" link at the bottom of the right-hand column. From there you landed on a page (I wish I had a screen capture of this from Old Search), where you could see in one spot/list what had been added or updated to the website. Besides the database collection name, it clearly showed a graphic indicating updated or added AND gave you an actual date that this took place. So if you knew you last checked the list on a particular date, you could easily and quickly scan the list until you spotted that particular date. If needed, you could narrow the list by a particular country or show all countries at once.

Does New Search/Primary Search have this list? Yes, but it is not as convenient to use or to scan for updates/additions. Why?

Well, from the main search page you now have to click on the "view all in catalog" link at the bottom of the right-hand column. But this just takes you to the catalog page. So then you have to change the "sort by" from "Popularity" to either "Date Updated" or "Date Added."  What once was one list is now two lists!

Now as far as figuring out what is new or added since you last checked that requires more effort. Instead of a column in each list giving the actual date the addition or update took place (like in Old Search), thinks you should roll your mouse over each database title. Then you have to wait for a pop-up bubble to appear giving you: the title of the collection, the date it was published, the date it was updated and a very brief line or two describing the database. This takes considerably more time having to wait for each pop-up to appear to learn the date. (And to be honest, I discovered this pop-up bubble by accident when my mouse slid off my lapboard one night.) Oh, the lists can be narrowed using location filters in the left-hand column.

To me as a user, if I am looking to learn what has been added or updated recently on the website SEEING the date added/updated is more important than seeing how many records are in each database or in what category the database was placed. Because the goal of my task is to learn what is new. Wouldn't logic say that date should be clearly visible rather than hid?

Yes, there seems to be "spacing issues" on the catalog page. But I suspect the information appearing in each column are values tied/coded to each database. My programmer brother says it is not that hard to re-program a column on one or two pages to "read" another value. (If it can appear in the pop-up bubble it can appear in a column and vice-a-versa.)

I have used the Feedback (and an old survey a long time back) to point this and other things out. I just thought to share with other "Old Searchers" how to do what we did quickly and easily in Old Search days in the New Search/Primary Search albeit not as quickly and easily.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Thursday, March 6, 2014 Old Search is dead -- March 6, 2014 -- it is a Sad Day for Me

I logged in today at about 3:35 p.m. and made the horrible discovery that has killed "Old Search."  It was still there earlier this morning and now it is not. 

My friend the little switch link (new search/old search) in the upper right hand corner under the line of tabs is now gone. I wish there was a cheat code like they have in many computer games for infinite lives.

And NO still has not fixed either the New York Passenger Ship List or the Hamburg Passenger Ship List specific search interfaces. Both still lack the age/birth year search parameter. (See my earlier post.)

Not looking forward to crawling instead of running through the passenger lists.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mourning the Coming Death of Old Search -- New Search Still Lacks in Areas

A blue banner appeared on top of the search pages a few weeks ago, informing users the final death of Old Search is very near. March is going to be a black month. Perhaps the banner color should have been black not blue.

Yes, I still use and prefer Old Search.

I tried New Search when it first came out. My experience -- lots of junk results that simply slowed down my research. I went back to Old Search and went back to being very happy. Much later I tried New Search again after announced changes. Again, too much junk in the results. There was a bit more control but not enough for me. Click on the Old Search link on the right under the page tabs -- back to happiness.

When the option to use Old Search was removed from LibraryEdition, helping people while volunteering at the library became frustrating for me. I made sure to bring my own laptop so I could do a search using my subscription on my laptop and then figure out a way to make the result come up for the patron in LibraryEdition on the library's computers.

Another round of tweaks to New Search seemed to lessen the junk in the results list some more but New Search is still lacking, especially in one area: the specific search engine interfaces for the New York Passenger Lists database and Hamburg Passenger Lists database.

What is lacking? The ability to use Age/Birth Year parameters in your search on these databases in New Search. The ability is there in Old Search. Why, oh why, is it not there in New Search?

Yes, the ability appears to be there in New Search for the search engine of the whole Immigration Category. But you have to dive down into the category to get to the specific database (New York or Hamburg) and once there the age/birth year parameter stops working. Then you have to climb up the category to tweak the age/birth year and dive back down into the category to see the new results. A waste of time if you ask me.

When you know your person came through a specific port, why waste time sifting through irrelevant results? Instead, focusing your search on a specific database immediately eliminates those irrelevant results so you can concentrate on the real potential answers to your search quest.

I lecture on searching for German ancestors and I do a lot of passenger ship list searches. But essentially for any nationality there are three major elements you need to know, have and use in order to find your ancestor(s) on a ship list:
  • Name of Ancestor(s) (as much as possible including nicknames)
  • Birth Date/Age at Arrival/Departure (as much as possible)
  • Arrival/Departure Year (it may be a specific year or range of years)
  • A fourth element that is helpful is knowing the Nationality or the State/Province of the Country your Ancestor(s) came from (i.e. Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Germany)
These are the elements that you need to plug into a search engine to find the result that is your ancestor. By not having the ability to use an Age/Birth Year parameter in searches of the New York and Hamburg Passenger Lists specific databases in New Search, is tying a user's shoelaces together and slowing down research success. I want my searches to run not tip-toe so I've stuck with Old Search.

Being able to use an age/birth year parameter is important. Got a difficult ancestor(s) to find? One tip I have for researchers when they are trying to locate a family traveling together on a ship is to concentrate the search on the children not the parents. There seems to be less children compared to adults traveling in any given year. Having the ability to use age/birth year in a search quickly eliminates a whole bunch of people from the results list and increases the chances of spotting the desired ancestor.
Please fix New Search's deficiency in the search engine interfaces of the New York Passenger Lists and Hamburg Passenger Lists databases. And while you are at it, fix any other specific search engine interfaces that have had their wings clipped in New Search. (At present, I know of just these two.) recently announced a new feature in New Search ... sliders to widen and narrow one's search. I'll be investigating that feature soon. I have a suspicion these sliders are going to be more like what Dad called the "idiot" lights that started appearing on a car's dashboard long ago instead of traditional gauges. You'll only know something has changed not why it changed. I hope that is not the case. I'll sum up what I learn about the sliders soon.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

War of 1812 Pension Find for Amos Butler

A couple weeks ago I made a time zone conversion error that resulted in an hour to wait around for a webinar to begin. (Actually I converted correctly but had the wrong start time stuck in my head.) Having already gone through the email and basics I check each day I started doing some genealogy searches to fill the time.

I don't remember how I ended up on what I did, but I found myself at Fold3 looking at the progress of the War of 1812 Pension Files project.

Years ago (before the rise of email and the internet) we did like many genealogists did -- requested a pre-printed form, filled it out with the magic words "please send the complete file" printed in ink at the top of the form, mailed it off using the U.S. Post Office, and waited. We actually requested one ancestor's pension file twice and got a few different pages each time. But it was cost prohibitive to send for every relation's file in hopes of finding a clue for our research. And since we had the most important file, a trip to see the records in person was lower on the list of places to take a research trip.

Fortunately, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 prompted the Federation of Genealogical Societies along with the National Archives, Fold3 and to come together in the Preserve the Pensions project to raise funds for the digitizing of the War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land files and placing them online for free. The goal is to raise $3.7 million dollars by the 2015's 200th anniversary of the War of 1812's end. is covering half of the project cost by matching each dollar raised.

I was happy to see that it was now reporting the database was 13 percent complete. (The last time I checked it was more like 5 percent.) Unfortunately, most of my main surnames I want to look at are at the end of the alphabet and, of course, they seem to be scanning the files alphabetically starting with A. 

As I glanced around at what was available for each state now (it varies by state) I remembered a particular person in one of my collateral lines, Amos Butler of Otsego County, New York.

To my happy surprise I found his file was digitized and it contained 46 digital images. And an even happier surprise -- these digitized images are in color not black and white! Now I couldn't wait for the webinar to be over so I could concentrate on Amos' pension file.
War of 1812 Pension File for Amos Butler

So what did I discover?

The very first image is a header card or jacket cover that extracts pertinent information from the pages within the file. I've seen one before but this one was very nicely filled out. Some of that information on the card I have seen elsewhere. The real news for me in this case was that the file contained a "family record and sold. discharge ctf. filed in brief." Oh, joy!

Now don't get too excited. Remember, not every pension file contains pages torn from the family bible but occasionally you come across one.

Like any really good genealogist I made sure to download all the digitized page images in the file -- so I would have the complete file. Reading through the pages I realized this file mostly consisted of his widow's claim for a pension. (Sometimes you find these separate.)

When I came to digital images number 9 and 10 of Amos' file the fact that these images are in color came to life -- there sat two pages from the family bible. (They are in fact the front and back of one page.)
Bible Page of Amos and Clarinda Butler

The page torn from the bible contained birth information for both Amos Butler and his wife Clarinda North along with their many children on one side and on the other side Amos and Clarinda's marriage information.

Amos Butler son of John Butler and his wife Cloe, was born August 4th 1793.
Clarinda, wife of Amos Butler, and daughter of Benjamin North, and his wife Weighty, was born September 1st 1804
Warren B. son of Amos Butler and his wife, Clarinda was born August 20th 1821
Benjamin N. son of Amos Butler and his wife Clarinda was born Sept. 19th 1824
Hiram G. son of Amos. Butler, and his wife Clarinda was born July 10th 1826
Menzo W. son of Amos. Butler and his wife, Clarinda, was born Nov 6th 1827
Gabriel N. son of Amos Butler and his wife Clarinda, was born August 18th 1829
Sumner Ely Butler was born June 3rd 1831
Amos Butler Jr was born March 29th 1833
Deloss Butler was born April 21st 1834
Jerome Butler was born July 2 1836
Bible Page of Amos and Clarinda Butler
Waity Elizabeth Butler was born March 11th 1838
John G Butler was born July 1st 1839
Victoria Butler was born December 2nd 1840
Clarinda Butler was born February 7th 1842
Amos Butler Jr. was born September 16th 1844
Frank Butler was born March 10th 1850

Amos Butler, and Clarinda North, were married December 25th in the year of our Lord 1819

Were all these names and dates new to me? No. 

The marriage date in the bible matches the date I had from in a newspaper abstract. I had some of the children's exact birth dates but not all. One interesting thing I noted from the bible page is that Clarinda's mother's name was spelled Weighty while Clarinda's daughter's name was spelled Waity. But clearly (at least to me) it is the same name: Weighty got her name from Waite, the maiden surname of her mother (Clarinda's grandmother.) Again not spelled the same but clear in its intention.

Other interesting information gleaned from the pension file so far:
  • From widow's brief: 
    • Aaron and Abby Jane North were witnesses to Amos and Clarinda's marriage. [Note to self: investigate their relation to Clarinda.)
    • Amos and Clarinda's cohabitation was shown by affidavits of Daniel W. and Belinda W. Wait. [Note to self: investigate their relation to Clarinda.]
  • From Aaron and Abby North's affidavit: they were present at the marriage of Amos and Clarinda "in the house of Benjamin North in the town of Middlefield." [Note to self: recheck research done on the North family of Middlefield.]
  • In a note accompanying Clarinda's declaration for bounty land, it says: "The above named widow is the mother of eighteen children and all of her sons are supporters of the present administration."
  • In the correspondence letters: I learned that Clarinda's lawyer died while she was trying to get her widow's pension thus delaying the process. 
  • In the correspondence letters: I learned that Clarinda "temporarily lived" in Cleveland, Ohio, for a short period of time. [Note to self: recheck prior research to recall who of Clarinda's relatives went to Ohio.]
In the process of analyzing this new information I noticed that though the note in the letter says she was the mother of eighteen children, the bible page lists just 15 children while prior to finding this pension file I had uncovered 16 children. Perhaps this disparity is the result of stillborn or children who died young. Another reason to recheck and compare this new information with my prior research.

I am sure analyzing the pension file further will yield more clues and avenues to research. I can not wait to see my ancestor's pension file digitized and learn if I had really been sent "the complete file" so many years ago. 

Source Citation:
"War of 1812 Pension Files", database, Fold3 formerly Footnote (, entry for Amos Butler (Sergeant, Capt H. Sawyer's Co NY Militia, War of 1812), bounty land warrant no. 11143 including widow Clarinda Butler pension no. WO 35338, WC 22728; citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty Land Applications Based on Service in the War of 1812, 1871-1900; Pension and Bounty Land Applications based on Service between 1812 and 1855; Records of the Department of Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.

Note: The War of 1812 Pension Files, once digitized, are available on Fold3. They are free to search and view. If you want to download or print an image, you will need to create a log-in account which is free, no subscription necessary.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where are the Sources?

Tombstone Tuesday

We came across these "genealogy" tombstones eleven years ago in New York and seven years ago in North Carolina; they have always intrigued me. But nowadays when I see them, all I think is: "What are the sources behind those statements carved in stone?" Just because they are carved in stone I wouldn't take them as fact until I did the research myself. 

I guess I'd take the information with a grain of ... granite?

Note: I have not researched either of these families so I do not know the accuracy of these statements. The stone from New York is simply one we came across while searching for a family member's burial plot. The pictures are grainy due to wrong settings used on a new camera. The stones from North Carolina tie into a niece's husband's family that I may or may not get around to researching someday.

in New York (1 of 3 pictures)
in North Carolina (1 of 4 pictures)

in New York (2 of 3 pictures)
in North Carolina (2 of 4 pictures)
in New York (3 of 3 pictures)
in North Carolina (3 of 4 pictures)

in North Carolina (4 of 4 pictures)
in North Carolina (1 of 1 picture)

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Soundex: A Blast from the Past OR A Peak Behind the Curtain

So what is Soundex? What does that click box do to my search? Why do people keep telling me to use it when I do a search?

If you started your genealogy research B.C. (before computers) you probably know these answers. You also may have just nodded and sort of smiled about the "good old days." But if you are newer to genealogy research -- A.C. (after computers) especially after the early years -- you may not know that there is a lot behind that simple click on a search form. And that's okay, today we're going to change that.

Soundex is one of many phonetic algorithms that allow us to index words (mainly names) by the sound of the word. So regardless of minor spelling differences the words are grouped (indexed) together.

For genealogists, that means we can find all the Smith, Smyth, Smythe, etc names in one spot. This makes it easier for us because as we go back in time spelling was not standardized and more people were illiterate and may not have known how to spell their name anyways. Soundex gives us a fighting chance to find them in many cases.

According to Wikipedia, Soundex was developed and patented in 1918 and 1922. A variation called American Soundex was used in the 1930s to index the US Census from 1890-1920. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) maintains the rules for implementation for the US Government.

Rules? Yes, rules. [Please read on and learn all about it. Or read on and see how much you remember from the "good old days."]

Soundex converts words to a letter and three numbers -- no matter how many letters make up the word. If you have a Michigan driver's license, the letter and first three numbers of your license number are the Soundex code for the surname on your license. Note: not all states use this as part of the driver's license number.

Before computers (for some of you this equals before you were born), we figured the code with paper and pencil. [It's okay if you use a blank notepad or Word document file but it isn't quite the same as the "old days."]

Take a surname, any surname, and write it down.  Then put four underscores/dashes ( _ _ _ _ ) to the right of the surname or above the surname. As you figure the Soundex code this is where you are going to put your "answers" as you determine the code for the surname you wrote down.

1. The letter portion of the code is always the first letter of the surname/word you are converting.
It does not matter if that first letter is a consonant or a vowel. So write that letter on the first underscore/dash.

Now we figure out the number part of the code (three numbers) from the remaining letters of the surname.

2. Eliminate/cross-out the vowels and a few other letters in the surname. 
A, E, I, O, U, H, W, Y

3. Below the remaining letters of the surname, convert each letter to the appropriate number from the list below.
1 = B, F, P, V
2 = C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, Z
3 = D, T
4 = L
5 = M, N
6 = R

4. Now read and apply any of these additional rules to the surname your wrote down.
Double Letters
If the surname has any double letters, ignore (cross out) the second occurrence of the same letter

Letters Side-by-Side that Convert to the Same Soundex Number
If the surname has two different letters side-by-side that become the same Soundex number, ignore (cross out) the second occurrence of the number. This includes situations where the first letter of the surname (which remains a letter) and the second letter would code to the same number.

Names with Prefixes
In this situation, you need to convert the surname to two different Soundex codes. One using the Prefix and one not using the Prefix. Note: Mac and Mc are not considered prefixes while Van, Le, De, etc. are prefixes. This covers you for different indexing (non-coded) methods used.

Names with Consonant Separators
If a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) separates two consonants with the same number code, the consonant to the right of the vowel is coded -- you use the second occurrence of the code number. But if the letters h or w separate the two consonants with the same number code, you do not use the second occurrence of the code number.

Out of Letters
If you run out of letters, use a 0 (zero) to fill in any of the three Soundex numbers still vacant.

5. Following all the rules, now you should have the number portion of the Soundex code for the surname you wrote down. Transfer your three numbers to the remaining underscores/dashes.

Lincoln  =  L524  (L, 5 for N, 2 for C, 4 for L)

Wellington =  W452 (W, 4 for L, ignore the second L, 5 for N, 2 for G, remaining coded consonants are ignored)

Pfropper = P616 (P, ignore f as codes the same as a p, 6 for R, 1 for P, ignore second P, 6 for R)

See = S000 (S, e is a vowel which is ignored and there are no remaining letters so use 000)
Sy = S000 (S, y is not coded and there are no remaining letters so use 000)

The National Archives and Records Administration's explanation of the rules has a good example of the consonant separator rule.
Tymczak = T522 (T, 5 for M, 2 for C, ignore Z since it codes to 2 also, vowel separates so 2 for K)

with prefix = V522 (V, 5 for N, 2 for G, vowel o lies between the next consonant so 2 for the next G is used)
without prefix = G200 (G, 2 for G, no letters remain so use 00)

Want to check if you figured your code correctly? There's a converter for that. In the early days of genealogy on the internet, an automatic Soundex Converter was "a big thing." Today, you can use it to check your work, or use it just for the fun of it. One Soundex Converter is hosted by RootsWeb. There are likely more still out there on the internet. Almost all genealogy programs have a feature to tell you the Soundex code for a surname.

Now this indexing system takes into account many spelling variations. But not all of them.  [Doesn't there almost always seems to be a caveat?]

Soundex will not help you if the first letter of the surname was switched. Like when a census enumerator (not of the same ethnicity as the resident) heard a V when a resident with a German accent said a name spelled with a W. In German, a W is pronounced more like V. Thus Wandschneider can become Vonsnider on a census. And as you can see the Soundex code for Wandschneider (W532) is not the same for Vonsnider (V525) and you won't find these different spellings in the same place (group). So remember to think how someone said something and how it may have been heard. You may need to play with letters a bit.

So, besides the caveat, that is the mystery behind the curtain of today's simple click to use Soundex in your search form. Started your genealogy B.C.? Hope your memory wasn't too rusty.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.