Summertime, and the livin’ is easy . . . for the kids, lol.
School’s out and for us it’s all about keeping the kids busy, happy, and creating great memories. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for “genealogy.” It’s not going to be the summer of starting projects that turn into all day genealogy binges; I’ve counted the Saturdays till my oldest is gone, and it’s too few; this summer I have a new challenge: a 15 minute limit.
What can actually be accomplished in 15 minutes? Here are a few of my 15 minutes a day accomplishments:
- Read the MyHeritage blog about their recently released Sun Charts-needless to say I want one.
- Made a Sun Chart for my side of the family. (MyHeritage generates these automatically, but I gazed adoringly for at least 10 minutes.)
- Inspired by Sun Charts, I called a sister-in-law and got the birth information for all her children and added them into my MyHeritage tree.
- Called a second sister-in-law and got the missing birth information for all her children and added them into my MyHeritage tree.
- Called my only living aunt and got birth, marriage, and death information for my uncle, cousins & spouses and added them into my tree.
- Over several days I became a cyber-stalker and downloaded immediate and distant family’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you-name-it-social-media-account photos to my tree. (Did you know people can download your photos from Facebook, etc. I’m mildly freaked out every time I do this.)
- Participated in #genchat (Friday night Twitter chat group) and learned more about DNA genealogy and found some new friends and new Twitter accounts to follow. (Disclaimer, this felt like 15 minutes but actually took an hour. If you don’t have that kind of time you can search #genchat on Twitter and spend 15 minutes reading past chats w/o participating.)
- Participated in the FamilySearch July 15-17 WorldWide Indexing challenge and I kid you not, found a batch that took ~15 minutes.
- Talked to my uncle on the phone & got more health info to add to my TapGenes family tree.
- Learned about a free webinar I missed, arghhh, and searched for more free webinars to try to catch.
- Gathered all the miscellaneous spiral notebooks in the house and searched them for random genealogy notes-will sort and organize later, but literally, this was a feat.
- Made plans for a family reunion in a few weeks.
So, I haven’t broken down any brick walls, but I’m having fun reaching out to living family and keeping our family tree up-to-date and accurate. It’s nice to have a daily goal that’s attainable and keeps family at the forefront of my thoughts each day.
I know it doesn’t look like much but check your tree, does it include all the new babies and cousins? 15 minutes a day might just get you where you want to be without pulling you away from family. Good luck!
July 22, 2016 | Alyson Mansfield
I really loved this article: Among Koreans, Giving Death Your Best Face by Rena Silverman, about the Korean tradition of having a nice portrait photograph taken as part of the normal funeral preparations we all make.
My husband has very strong feelings about remembering people in their prime, especially when it comes to family tree photos. We don’t concern ourselves with community family tree lineage arguments, but my husband WILL fight for control of the photos that are displayed. He feels strongly that a person should be remembered as they would likely think of themselves-in their prime.
His dad passed a few years ago and he hates seeing a “grandfatherly” photo appear on the tree. We swapped it for one of his father’s college photos. You go back two or three generations and you probably have no choice but to use a photo of someone in their later years-their age at the advent of good photography and the means to have nice photos taken. Not anymore.
Never has a generation had greater means, access, and skill for taking photos. Millennials will not lack for good funeral photographs. I love that Ms. Sohn, from Ms. Silverman’s article, visited seniors in churches, senior centers, and community centers and gave them the gift of a nice photo, even photoshopping a few to let them remember how they felt in their prime.
I remember in my youth hearing a retired gentleman speak to an audience and he addressed the young people saying, “I see you running right past me and I know all you see is an old man, but in my mind I still feel like I’m 16, like I’m one of you.” That’s always stayed with me. At first it was such a foreign idea, that he thought he was like us in any way, then it became my underlying assumption about aging, that we still think as a younger version of ourselves.
So in honor of the Korean tradition of giving death its best face, I found a photo of my mom from her high school graduation that I’m uploading to my FamilySearch and MyHeritage family trees. She died at forty-two, so all her photos are youthful, but this one seems appropriate because she had the heart of a teenager. Whether its with online family trees for the deceased or our living elders, let’s pass this tradition down-enabling youth to relate to their elders by seeing them the way they see themselves.
Juliet Vernon high school graduation photo
May 19, 2016 | Alyson Mansfield
I’ve been scanning documents a cousin sent me and found some 11×17 copies of census records there was no way I was going to scan. This should all be online so I went to my computer to make sure this census record was attached to my online family trees at Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FamilySearch.
So, I’m staring at a paper copy of the 1910 census record and type in my ancestor’s name exactly as it appears in the census. That’s usually the hold up when I can’t find someone in a census: their name has been indexed incorrectly, they’re going by a different name, etc. In this case he’s adopted a nickname for his given name so I type in “Harry Webber,” his birthdate, his birthplace (it was Wales, the enumerator has England, I typed England) I left out his wife’s name because I’ve seen it indexed as both Eve and Eva and didn’t want that to mess up my search. I submitted my search and he’s nowhere to be found. I’m not accustomed to looking at more than the first page of search results so I’m ticked it’s not there. I’m staring at a paper copy of a census roll and can’t get it to pull up on my computer. This was supposed to be a quick search and verify. My blood pressure is rising.
Long story short, I made a some missteps, so my 7 census research tips are:
- Census tip #1: Do the math. Even if you know someone’s birth year, when you’re looking at a census record, you need to compute how old the census taker said the person was. Use a census age calculator to figure out birthyears if you’re not inclined to do census subtraction.* I knew his actual birthyear so I skipped this step. But short version of the math is: year of the census – age in the census = year of birth, roughly, in this case 1910-50=1860. You can be more precise if you know the actual “census day,” in this case April 15, 1910, and the month and year of birth. Bored yet? Yeah, me too. But if I’d done this one step there’d be no problems to blog about. Do yourself a favor and do the math.
- Census tip #2: Don’t be a hardliner about birthdates. I know my ancestor’s birthdate is 1852 or 1853. The enumerator has 1860. We can say people back then were less concerned about birthdates and keeping track of their age but right next to being born in 1860 (false) he’s got being naturalized in 1859 (true). Seriously. I know ages are notoriously incorrect in census records but in this case I’m guessing it’s because he was an actor and wanted to seem younger than he was.** Even the enumerator should have known he wasn’t naturalized before he was born. But, being right about a birthdate is worthless if it prevents you from finding someone in the census so don’t be a hardliner on birthdates.
- Census tip #3: Don’t make assumptions about the search engine. I assumed when I didn’t tell Ancestry.com the birthdate was exact, they’d prioritize this information in their search parameters. Wrong. I didn’t bother to check the box to specify how
Ancestry.com search screen with birth year not specified as “Exact”
Ancestry.com search screen with birth year specified as “Exact =+/- 10 years”
“unexact” I wanted it to be. My bad. They don’t prioritize this very highly unless you tell them to. If I had checked “within 10 years” he would have pulled up. As it is, I’ve since been through five pages of search results with my simple query and still not found him. Don’t make assumptions about the search engine.
- Census tip #4: MyHeritage has the most user-friendly search parameters I’ve found. When I say user-friendly search parameters I mean they return what I expect to find.
MyHeritage accurate search results with the same vague parameters
Even though MyHeritage, Ancestry, and FamilySearch may share the exact same census scans and indexes, the algorithms used to return searches are customized by each company. If you can’t find your ancestor on one company’s census record, try a different company or create a better search.
- Census tip #5: Scan the whole census return for the township/division where you’ve found a relative. Genealogist Lisa Lisson tweets “Tuesday tips” from her website and this is one of her tips. Amen, sister. Scan that census roll forward and back. I may be lazy, but if you can’t take the time to scroll through a few extra pages of census records in the comfort of your own home while you have some music or show playing, you must not have been doing genealogy back in the day where you sat in front of a microfilm reader in a library. It’s very rare for me not to find extended family in the same township as an ancestor when I scan a census roll front to back. Nuclear families are a more recent phenomena. Even if you don’t find grandma and grandpa in the same township, you’ll probably find other surnames from your tree that are related. Or, as in Lisa’s example, you’ll get to know who their neighbors were and when you hit a brick wall you might be glad you know. Scanning this census roll a little further I found my family had been enumerated twice, which leads to tip #6.
- Census tip #6: If adult children are living with a parent in the census, check the census roll to make sure they weren’t enumerated twice. I’m not sure if the enumerator misunderstood the census instructions or if the person who answered the questions didn’t understand the questions, but in my family, the enumerator listed a son, no wife, and two children (one adopted child) as living with his parents. My mind was running through all the possibilities, Did they divorce? Did she die? Then two pages later, the same enumerator listed this same son as living in his own home with his wife and two children. Finding this family enumerated twice in one census was helpful because I learned from the double entries that (1) his wife was alive and they were still together (2) he adopted her first child. Why are there double entries in the census? Who knows, just be aware they’re there and look for them.
- Census tip #7: If you know specifics about where and when someone lived, search by a particular census and state/county/etc. within that census. I had the printed copy of the 1910 census record in front of me. I knew exactly where in the census this person could be found. I should have started with a more specific search. First, in this case, select the 1910 US Federal Census (I did that much); then, if the search engine allows this option, specify the state, county, and township. Then put in the name, etc you’re looking for. Most people probably have lazy search habits, like mine, but if the search engine doesn’t cater to lazy search habits, choose a different search engine or raise the bar on your searches. I know I will.
Unrelated information in case you care, the 1940 census is the first census where enumerators specified in the census which person gave them the information.
1940 Census with respondent marked by an “x”
They put a mark next to the name of the person who gave them the information.
*I just noticed that MyHeritage has an age calculator “Calculate it” built-in on their search screen, another user-friendly device.
MyHeritage search screen with built-in birth year calculator
MyHeritage birth year calculator on search screen
**I have it from a reliable source (someone who actually fulfilled the request) that actors/actresses have been known to fight to have their ages removed from online databases (job security to be younger).
April 1, 2016 | ONGAdmin