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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.

Examples:
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)

VanGogh
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.

Monday, January 6, 2014

How Many Ancestors Do You Know? Count Your Genealogy Numbers

I am finally getting back to genealogy and blogging after a busy month and then a very bad, never-ending (it seems) cold.

A recent post,  "What's Your Genealogy Score?", on Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings blog caught my eye late Saturday/early Sunday. He refers to two other bloggers who have done this in the past also. Anyways, his Saturday, January 4, post is about counting up your identified direct ancestors and determining what percentage of your ancestors you know by generation and overall (total).

Normally I don't care to hear someone say I have this number of people in my tree. When I hear this I usually think, "Yeah, but how much of it is really proved and accurate? And how many are really related to you?" I don't see genealogy as a collecting names game, to me it is more of a mystery/detective game.

But in this case, I think the numbers do mean something a bit more:  How much have I learned and how far do I have to go yet? The reality is that very, very few, if any of us, will have all 100% results all the way back through the generations. Natural disasters, people, and a simple lack of recording information have a way of keeping us from the answers we seek. But still we try.

So in between shoveling the driveway three times on Sunday, I started to put together my genealogy numbers.

Using my genealogy program I made an Ahnentafel Report and then proceeded to add up my ancestors by generation. Along the way I made a form in Microsoft Word that includes a table that does the math for you with a few clicks of the mouse and, of course, directions. I'm making it available for anyone to use for personal use only (no commercial use/copying). Here is the form you can download and then edit. (I think I set up access correctly.).

My numbers are pretty much what I expected. I did perfect (100%) up to my 2nd great grandparents (the fifth generation). And did pretty good on my 3rd great grandparents (the sixth generation) scoring in the 90s. After that it was down hill.

I'm mostly German. Luckily for me most of those ancestors were from Mecklenburg-Schwerin where there are bountiful records available. If that had not been the case, my numbers would have been even lower.

BUT some of those German ancestors of mine were from the Vorpommern area and Brandenburg where records are not so available and that pulled down my numbers. And then there is that one non-German line where I have a third great grandfather of whom nothing is known but his name. On top of this, that branch contains my only colonial roots that is for the most part keeping mum about itself. Though I've made some progress here and there, I still have not gotten another generation further back yet.

So here is a screen capture of my results. Randy and the rest (see the comments made to his post) were comparing their results at the 10th generation level. So overall for my 10th generation, I am at 17.99%.


But if I have correctly determined the parents and thus ancestry of one of my 4th great grandmothers (my some progress), I will have added several more generations of ancestors to my results. Curious, I wrote the potential ancestors on my Ahnentafel printout and added up the changes it would make to my eighth generation and beyond. Below are the alternate results. My 10th generation moves up to 18.96%.


Hopefully, this year I can find a bit more proof to finally feel comfortable adding this line to my tree. So if the genealogy angels/fairies are reading...

Happy New Year!

©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.