Archive for the ‘methodology’ Category

This article is part of a series journaling my progress with what I call The Presidential Project. The first article was posted on 25 May, 2017 and can be found here: Back to the Blog and you can read forward from there to today.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Yesterday, I wrote about how I can claim kinship to at least 13 Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Yesterday and today I also saw how there were many Facebook posts about kinship to the Signers, so I thought it might be helpful to give a “how to” explanation of how I quickly identified those 13 brave Patriots.

I am using the website FamousKin.com as the resource to identify my relationships to various, well, Famous Kin. The key is to identify Gateway Ancestors. So let’s use the 3rd President of the United States, “TJ” Thomas Jefferson, as an example. And let’s do this as his role as a Signer of the Declaration of Independence rather than his Presidency.

Go to the website and click on the Signers button, the 7th one across near the top of the page. Up comes a list, not complete, of people who signed important historic documents. Find Thomas Jefferson in the list, the 17th one down, and click on the “famous kin” link next to his name. Up comes a page with a list of famous people from various walks of life that are related to TJ.

The first entries are famous people from which TJ is directly descended, followed by people who have a kinship to him. As you peruse the list, perhaps your Surname Alarm starts going off. Yes, you recognize a name from your family tree. By definition, if you are related to, say, William the Conqueror, and TJ is related to him as well, then you are, by definition, related to Thomas Jefferson.

So for yesterday’s blog post, I keyed in on two very famous ancestors of mine, William the Conqueror and King Edward I, my 27th and 21st great-grandfathers respectively. I then looked at the famous kin of each Signer, looking for those names in their list and that is how I developed my own list. Note that if you claim King Edward “Longshanks” I in your family tree, you too are related to those same 13 signers … and me! Hello Cousin.

Tomorrow I will get into how you determine the exact relationship between yourself and the Signer of the Declaration of Independence. But I must end with this caveat. The data on FamousKin.com does not contain source references. You need to treat it as you would data from Ancestry or the IGI, as a clue, not as fact. There are better, well sourced, genealogies of various famous people, especially the Presidents. It is there that you can bump up the confidence in claiming your relationship. Perhaps a reader or two will respond with a comment about those more definitive resources.

Next Installment: The Signers, explained, part 2

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved

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Location Names

This article is part of a series journaling my progress with what I call The Presidential Project. The first article was posted on 25 May, 2017 and can be found here: Back to the Blog and you can read forward day by day.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

When I started my genealogical journey, I was dealing with ancestors from America’s early colonial history. The place names for events have been renamed over time and administrative districts such as county names have changed as well. But that is how I recorded the fact, with the location name at the time of the event (i.e birth, marriage, death, burial).

As I became a little more disciplined in documenting my research and learning how to make full use of my genealogical software, Family Tree Maker (after all, I was leading a special interest group, trying to stay ahead of the class), I learned how “place name” was an integral part of the reporting features of the program. And those features revolved around current place names, not historical place names.

In fact, Family Tree Maker will flag unknown or incomplete place names as errors with a lookup feature for correct place names that are tied to a map of the world. So data cleanup was important to me. But I did pose the question as to which name should be used to a few veteran genealogists and their answer was keep the original name in my data. It could be an important lead to the courthouse that still holds the records I might seek in the future. When administrative boundaries change, there is no big paper shuffle to transfer files.

So I made the decision that when entering a fact, the “place name” data element of the fact flagged as primary would be the current place name as validated by the FTM software. The original place name tied in time to the fact would be carried as fact flagged as alternate. Now I would have both pieces of information and the map would show the correct physical location should I ever want to go there.

But there was one little gotcha on the cleanup. When you click on the place name drop-down to do the lookup, it will tell you the original place as entered is tied to “n” number of facts, do I want to change this fact or all “n.” My problem was that additional information, such as the cemetery name, was part and parcel of the entered place name in some cases. If I did a blanket replace, some of that data would be lost! It is best to correct them one at a time since there is an option to move that extra data to the description field of the fact.

Next Installment: Flag Day: Francis Scott Key

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved

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How Many Databases?

This article is part of a series journaling my progress with what I call The Presidential Project. The first article was posted on 25 May, 2017 and can be found here: Back to the Blog
Monday, June 12, 2017

So do you want to have one great big, massive database or break your research into multiple databases? I have heard this question asked many times and my project has me questioning my own strategy.

Of course, there is one easy answer and that is work you do for friends, your groups, and lineage societies should each go into its own database, assuming there is no likelihood of commonality.

For myself, I have one large database for my paternal ancestry, which has been the main focus of my research. I have a separate database for my wife’s ancestry, and a third medium sized database for my mother’s line. Her ancestry goes back to Colonial Canada so, until The Presidential Project, I assumed the likelihood of common ancestors was slim to none. Now I am not so sure about that. Those are my three main databases.

For The Presidential Project, I started off with a separate database where I loaded GEDCOM files obtained on the Internet of Presidential ancestry. The data was unsourced but could be proven over time given how many books are written on the subject. I pulled a GEDCOM file of my direct ancestry from my master database and loaded it in to let Family Tree Maker do the relationship calculations for me.

All was going along smoothly until I made the choice to break scope and trace back my European ancestry where many Gateway Ancestors might be. Where should I add that data, the the TPP database or the paternal “master” database? I started out in TPP using the trees from FamousKin but unfortunately they are only generally sourced. Once I found The Peerage, I had much more confidence in the data. Not to mention, there was so much of it that folding it into the master database would not be a trivial exercise. So I switched over to adding my European ancestors directly into my master database.

My plan is that once I am done chasing around Royal lines and I have resolved the many duplicate entries I am finding, I will create an updated direct ancestor GEDCOM and load it into the much smaller TPP database. That’s my methodology and I hope this serves as one example of how a journeyman genealogist approached the question.

I will still bring unvetted GEDCOM files into their own separate database until I have a chance to review them, check sources, etc.

By the way, GEDCOM is an acronym standing for Genealogical Data Communication. According to Wikipedia, GEDCOM “is an open de facto specification for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogy software.” A file generated by your genealogy program is commonly called a GEDCOM file.

[Ed note. I am a little behind on meeting my goal of posting daily so I am adding a dateline to help keep me on track. Best laid plans and all that.]

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved

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Succession Planning

This article is part of a series journaling my progress with what I call The Presidential Project. The first article was posted on 25 May, 2017 and can be found here: Back to the Blog

I mentioned on Friday that a website dedicated to my direct immigrant ancestors went “off the air.” I don’t know what happened to it but can assume that the webmaster did not have a plan for handing it off to someone else to keep it going. In Business Planning 101, this is called having an Exit Strategy.

There are bits and pieces of that website still available via search. And there is always the Internet Archive to pull up pages, assuming the site was captured. But one of the website’s very nice features was a genealogical database and I fear that is lost and gone forever.

Maybe I missed a call for volunteers to pick up the reins. Maybe something medical happened to the webmaster. I do need to attempt contact and see if a family member has access and simply does not know what to do.

And so it is with all those boxes of paper you have with your research notes, your genealogical library with the books you have amassed over the course of your avocation, your computer with your genealogical database, all those photographs … you get the idea. What plans have you made for all that? I must admit I haven’t done a thing and need to get busy myself.

Does your next of kin know what to do with your output of hundreds of hours of research? Do they understand the value you place on that? Or do they understand that the intended recipient is cousin Mary or Joseph? And if it is going to a distant (geographically speaking) relative, have you considered the shipping costs for your hard-copy treasure trove? The last thing you want to have happen is for someone to load the dumpster with your precious research! Have you even selected who is to receive all of this?

Is your will up to date? Has it been redone for your current state of residence? Does it specify what is to be done with the elements of your research? Does it contain a Digital Rights clause? Do you have a list of your accounts with passwords available? Is it up to date? Have you considered scanning your hard-copy papers to DVD and sending that now, along with your genealogical software’s current backup (you are backing up your database, aren’t you???).

Hopefully you have someone in mind from a younger generation who has caught the genealogy bug and would love to have your information and will carry on from where you leave off. Consider sending them your backup copies now and periodically update them. That is good disaster planning, even if you aren’t ready to devise your own Exit Strategy.

Sunday Status: 17 presidential kin identified to date.  They are:

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S Grant, Benjamin Harrison, (John) Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George Herbert Walker Bush, George Walker Bush, Barack Hussein Obama.

Next Installment: How many trees to have?

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved

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This article is part of a series journaling my progress with what I call The Presidential Project. The first article was posted on 25 May, 2017, and can be found here: Back to the Blog.

Like most people starting their family history journey, it took me a while to appreciate properly sourcing the data I entered into my genealogy database. It answers the questions “where was this data found? Where can it be found again? How accurate is the information?” There are volumes written about sources and sourcing and I will not attempt to add my own amateur description here. Perhaps you the reader can respond to this article with your recommendation on the best resource to describe the process.

Being able to document where a particular data fact was found adds immense value to your family tree, especially if you are going to share it with the world. It lets the reader (and yourself, over time) judge the accuracy of the information presented. Also, because your research will likely turn out to be the work of decades, it is a reminder of where you found the information should you ever wish to revisit your early work and improve its accuracy.

Recording the source of information entered into your genealogy program is not a task to be set aside for later; it is best done contemporaneously. Otherwise, it will languish on your to-do list while you are off chasing Genealogical Rabbits. And the field is full of them! Oh, if only I recorded that source of my immigrant ancestor’s presence in Salem back in 1628! I have it recorded in hard copy somewhere (I hope).

But what do I mean by “credit where credit is due?” A friend congratulated me on finding a very early ancestor and tracing my tree back so far in time. I must confess it was not the result of days searching volumes in a research library or viewing endless pages on microfilm. I was building upon the work of others, making assumptions on the accuracy of their data. Perhaps they were the ones to invest all that time in establishing the relationships. And they deserve credit for that hard work.

So how to accomplish that? I am reserving the source I enter for the “name” fact to be where I found the information. As I ripple back in time on The Peerage web site, each name added will have a full citation for The Peerage, giving them credit for their discovery.

It is still incumbent upon me to confirm the information I am adding. It is part of the life-long task of my genealogical avocation. It is part of my infinite to-do list. Ultimately I would love to have a primary source cited for each and every fact I enter for each person in my tree. But I am closing on 20,000 individuals and I just don’t have that much time!

Next Installment: Wikipedia

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved

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I love spreadsheets! Ever since they came out with MultiPlan, I have been using spreadsheets to organize data. I especially like the custom report feature of Family Tree Maker to generate a comma separated value export that I can load into a spreadsheet and work with my tree data.

For The Presidential Project, I have been copying the list of famous kin by President to identify my list of Gateway Ancestors. I have processed what is available through Lincoln, our 16th President, and am well on my way of building my list of Gateway Ancestors for Famous Kin.

I have also considered building a data base using the spreadsheet data. More on that later on in this series. So the project continues but there was a little detour along the way.

Next installment: Chasing Genealogical Rabbits

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