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

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

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

Nutfield Genealogy

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 am a member of several genealogy-related groups on Facebook, among them New England Family Genealogy and History and New England Genealogy. Some of the members publish a blog and make posts in these groups of their content that we might find interesting. One post I always look forward to reading is by Heather Wilkinson Rojo from her Nutfield Genealogy blog.

Heather turns out to be a distant cousin, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my 9th cousin, 1x removed. We share Deacon John Wright (1601-1688) as our common ancestor, she descended from his youngest daughter Sarah, me from his second son Joseph. But kinship aside, I like her blog, and that’s why I chose to write about it today.

I like its structure, the scope of information presented, and her special day-of-the-week features: Tombstone Tuesday, Weathervane Wednesday, and Surname Saturday. Every Saturday I am looking in Family Beekeeper, my cellphone family tree app, to check out the featured surname and see if I am somehow related. If you are looking to get into genealogical blogging, Heather has a fantastic model for you to consider emulating.

I strongly recommend you add Nutfield Genealogy to your list of followed blogs and see what new content appears every day.

Next Installment: Succession Planning

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved
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

My direct immigrant ancestor was Deacon John Wright (1601-1688). He was in Charlestown, Massachusetts as early as 1630 (multiple sources). But this article is not about him directly.

There are several write-ups for John on the internet about him and there was a web site dedicated to him and spouse Priscilla directly, www.wrightfamily.ca, but it seems to be off the air. If anyone knows the operator please let him know I would be happy to pick up the baton. Hmmm, maybe a future article about succession planning.

I found another nice write-up that has promising leads, here. And (distant, 9th, 1x removed) cousin Heather Wilkinson Rojo did a “Surname Saturday” article about John, back in 2013, here: Surname Saturday ~ Wright of Woburn, Massachusetts. I am going to write about her Nutfield Genealogy blog tomorrow because I am so impressed.

So what do I mean about “The Wrong Wright?” Everybody loves to have illustrious ancestors in their family tree, especially in a direct line of descent. There was such an illustrious Wright living in England with descendants in the right time-frame: Sir John Wright (1488-1551) of Kelvendon Hall. You will find many family trees in the popular places, such as Ancestry.com, showing a link, sometimes direct, to Sir John. I have not found one with a legitimate source to prove the connection.

Well, the last name matches, but Wright is almost as ubiquitous as Smith. John was a common Christian name in both of the lines of descent,  but there is nothing unique about that. But other than those similarities, I see no evidence supporting a link. Sir John’s descendants were “toffs”; my John was a tanner by trade. My John is from county Kent; Kelvendon Hall is in the adjacent Essex county. Not an impossible geographic distance, but distance back then meant a lot more than it does now.

To be honest, my Scope restriction has kept my research into English Origins pretty limited. I chose not to cross the pond but rather concentrate on lines of descent from my immigrant ancestors. Way down on the to-do list is to participate in a DNA surname study, which I think is the best bet in making the direct connections to the early Wrights, barring the luck of stumbling upon decent records from the 16th and 17th centuries.

So for now, Sir John Wright of Kelvendon Hall is the Wrong Wright.

Next Installment: Nutfield Genealogy

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved

So why do this?

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 posted a query in a Facebook group, looking to find the meaning of term I found at The Peerage concerning the marriage of my 31st great-grandparents, Geoffrey I d’Anjou (c. 930 – 7/12/987) m. Adelais de Vermandois (c. 950 – aft. 975) “in a Y marriage.” I got back the reply “Personally, I think you’re just showing off 🙂 Who has 31st ggf???” To which I responded “you do 🙂 if you happen to be fortunate enough to have one of the gateway ancestors to Charlemagne. It is part of a project I am working on and blogging about. I plan to do Thursday’s entry as to why you would want to go back that far.”

So why am I doing this? And what is “this,” the blogging or the project itself? And why would you want to do the same?

No, it is not about bragging rights although I am proud to have traced back so much of my ancestry. Really, it comes down to my curiosity, the thrill of discovery, my love of history, and wanting to have something to share with my family. As far as blogging about it goes, I thought the project and the things I was discovering was worth sharing, perhaps having a frustrated teacher lurking inside. It is sort of a stage-of-life thing where I think we are programmed to pass along knowledge to the next generation. Also, being homebound, it is a way to connect with community.

I also drew blogging inspiration from some Facebook discussion by attendees of a recent national genealogy conference (was it NGS or FGS?) which included a survey of favorite blogs. It reminded me that I started doing this a long time ago, including publishing a family newsletter, but had set it aside. So Back to the Blog I went. Maybe it is the next logical step for me to start the newsletter up again.

But enough about me, why would YOU want to do something like The Presidential Project?

One good reason is to come up with a hook to interest family members in their ancestry, maybe have one or two of them catch the genealogy bug. A very recent survey of membership in local genealogical societies showed 88.3% of those surveyed being age 50 or older. How do you interest the younger generations in their ancestry when it appears to be so age-related?

A way to do this is to come up “fascinating facts” about leaves in your family tree. Having an ancestor who was present at the First Thanksgiving might do it. Or a Saint, or a royal connection, Presidents, signers of the Declaration of Independence, surety for the Magna Carta, and so forth. But that’s mostly tied to historical events.

How about having Tom Hanks, members of the band Chicago, Brad Pitt, Kate Upton (my personal favorite), Lizzy Borden, or a Salem witch or two? You might not have too many direct ancestors with a claim to fame but as I learned from my early exploration and Gateway Ancestor discoveries, the chances are pretty good at finding several distant relatives who fall into the pop-culture categories.  Part and parcel of that is to go far enough back in your family tree that you locate your Gateway Ancestors.  Give it a try.

Next Installment: Family Friday: The Wrong Wright

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved


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

Often, the way we do things is frozen in time, back to when we learned how to do them. I still double-space after the end of a sentence since that is the way I was taught to type. I am told it is an archaic practice, harkening back to the days of manual typewriters, but this old dog still does it that way and it looks pleasing on the page to me.

So it is with using as a reference source Wikipedia, that ubiquitous reference source of the Internet. In its infancy, Wikipedia was the bane of educators everywhere. Cite it as your source in a research paper and look forward to getting an “F” for your grade. And there was, and still is, a method to that dictate. It is important to learn fundamental research methods as part of your early education and the ease in finding a Wiki (Hawaiian for quick) article short-circuits that.

But decades later, is that still the case (other than for learning research techniques)? I find Wikipedia to be the ultimate peer-reviewed resource. There is a (theoretical) infinite number of contributors and editors. Information seems to be updated almost instantaneously, especially when it involves the death of a celebrity. One must still guard against editorial bias and carry a huge grain of salt when it comes to political discussions. Wikipedia has taken the old hard-copy encyclopedia into the new millennium.

This epiphany occurred to me when I was chasing down the purported sainthood of my 28th great-grandmother. [See “My Sainted … Grandmother?’] As is almost always the case, a Wikipedia article on the subject was right up near the top of the search results. Articles are extensively foot-noted and, should a fact not have a foundation, it is flagged as “[citation needed].” If you disagree with the information presented, you are free to contribute a correction providing you have a proper foundation for your assertion. I was suitably impressed and reassured.

So when it comes to biographical information about historical figures, I am happy with using Wikipedia as a reference. The caveat being that you should perform your own due-diligence and follow the footnotes and also note the date you accessed the article. Since revisions are not limited by a hard-copy publishing schedule, things have the potential to dramatically change over time. You could call that the joy and hurt of it.

I will continue this discussion at a future time because I have an intriguing idea on how to use their book feature.

Next Installment: So why do this?

(c) 2017 Philip G Wright, all rights reserved