Friday, January 30, 2015

I'm "stealing" this. But I just have to share it!!

I get Randy Seaver's excellent blog Genea-Musings by subscription in my morning email. The other day he posted about a hilarious cartoon that comes out three times a week all about genealogy. It's called Geneapalooza and is by genius guy, Esto Frigus. Check it out here.

So here's the thing. There's no link offered or info on how to contact Esto Frigus so I can't contact him to get his permission to share one of his cartoons, so I'm just going ahead and violating copyright and "stealing" it. Actually, I kinda doubt that Esto would pursue this "crime" through legal channels because I'm only saying very flattering stuff about him and his work:) It's super funny... if you're an avid genealogist! If you're the spouse, family or partner of an avid genealogist then maybe you'll not see it as quite so hilarious. Here's an example.
See more from Geneapalooza at

Thank you Esto, wherever you are!!  

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Couldn't you say that more directly?

OK, so this is probably old information and I'm the last girl on the block to "get it" but I have to make a confession: I've not been very good at those designations for evidence such as primary and secondary, direct and indirect, original or derivative. Just not thought about them much. But while taking the DAR Genealogy Education Program (GEP) course online, I finally understood and could see how designating a record or a piece of evidence on that record as one of those just listed would really help. When I'm digging for ancestors and  looking at some piece of paper or image on Ancestry or Family Search, I can know in a moment how helpful that item is going to be for me by using those designations. And if the document or info on it is not "good enough" then I know what I need to do to find better. And we want the very best when we look for records, don't we? Sure we do!

I get the difference between original and derivative. It has to do with whether the record is the original, in its original form, or some other version. An example is the Declaration of Independence. If you're looking at the original Declaration of Independence, unless you're in the National Archives in D.C. than you're probably looking at a copy, a derivative version. Is it a transcript that you're looking at? Did someone transcribe it and type it up? That's one example of a derivative version. It's legit alright, but it's not the original so it's derivative. Or maybe you're looking at a short write up version, a synopsis or abstract. That's another version and it's going to give you less information so maybe you'll miss the very bit you really wanted to see. Get it? If you had the original of the Declaration of Independence you'd have a national treasure. If you have an abstract, what do you have? A derivative version.

Same with the records we look at. Take wills for example. I love to look at original wills online. Love to see the handwriting, the X or signature telling me if the person who wrote the will could read or write. Transcripts are OK but they can be full of errors. And of course we can label them derivative. Will abstracts are the worst for me! You just know when you look at one it's leaving out the good stuff you want to know! Derivative.

Direct and indirect were terms that I have to admit I didn't really understand or see how they could be helpful. Let me elaborate on that. When someone explained them I understood for a little while but then in a few minutes I'd forget again because I couldn't see the helpfulness of the terms. Well, I get it now! If you ask someone how to get to First and Elm they can tell you, go straight two blocks, then left for five more blocks and you'll be at First and Elm, that's pretty direct information, don't you think? And if you asked another guy how to get to the same place and he rattled on and on describing landmarks and building that were there 40 years ago, maybe you could figure out how to get there, but maybe you couldn't. That's indirect information. Yuck. Give us direct information, please!

Indirect evidence leads you to a conclusion only by stringing together a series of pieces of evidence. Why can't it be stated directly, we ask ourselves along the way? Because there's no direct evidence available, only indirect evidence. It's a puzzle that needs to be put together... by you.

That only leaves primary and secondary to be sorted out. This one is pretty easy and I thought I understood how to use the two terms. But then I dug into a simple death certificate and -- bam! -- a big light went off that showed me the very heart of the matter and why it's important to know and use this type of evidence analysis. Who was that informant and what did they really know anyhow? The date and place of death was a sure bet. It was most likely to be correct (and was primary evidence) because it was very close in time (primary) to the event. The informant had usually been witness to the death and so probably knew exactly when and where it happened. But what of the birth place? Or the subjects parents, or get ready, the subject's parents place of birth! See how that could go all wrong and lead to incorrect information?

So now I'm not too surprised when I think about my 4th GGF's death certificate and how the informant, his undoubtedly upset and grieving wife, mixed up his parents surnames. It showed me just how easy it was to get incorrect secondary info on a vital record. Wow!

Primary and secondary. (Think death certificate.)
Direct and indirect. (Think driving directions.)
Original or derivative. (Think Declaration of Independence.)

There are more complex ways to sort documents and evidence. Elizabeth Shown Mills has a good one here and there's more info on her method here.

Now wasn't that fun?

Samuel Albert House (1832 - 1917) and
Mary Elizabeth Farrell House (1835 - 1919)

His death certificate, the Informant his wife. Notice the surnames of his parents! They were mixed and his parents were Rebecca House and Isaac Biggerstaff. He did not take his fathers surname for a big reason. More on that later, of just search on Biggerstaff in the search box on the top, right.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

And now something I saw on Facebook...

I've been away from my little blog for a while. Been distracted by the holidays and then taking the DAR's GEP courses, that's Genealogy Education Program. There are three courses and you take them online. Only open to DAR members, and really don't think anyone else would be interested due to the heavy DAR slant. But it was worth it. It took a month out of my life and saturated a lot of time. It culminated in a writing assignment in which we wrote a Service Study that used direct evidence only to differentiate between four men by the same name living in Lancaster County during the Revolutionary War. I was so overwhelmed that I finally made an Excel spreadsheet and then figured it out! Got 100%, I did, I did:) And as a bonus, the Geni at HQ even gave me a tip on how to make it even better. How's that for delivering?
Now it's back to the Nut Tree here and post with some regularity on an irregular schedule. You know how it goes:) Really, I do not know how Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings does it, posting a couple of times a day!!
The plan is to share with you some of the stuff I learned or was reminded about while taking the GEP course. I won't deal with all the info that's DAR specific, just the tools we all use everyday. The process will help me remember what I learned and who knows, maybe it will tickle your fancy too.
Here's one for instance. On one of the DAR Facebook pages a woman and a prospective member lamented that her "Revolutionary War" ancestor turned out to be a Loyalist! No problem, the members assured her. Did she know that in her 7th generation back she had 256 ancestors to choose from. And in her 8th generation she had 512 ancestors. If she was young enough, she might even find that one of her 1024 ancestors in her 8th generation could have served. The general consensus was that if some of her ancestors were here during the Revolution and she had found a Loyalist she was highly likely to find a Patriot too!!