Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New CEO and President of FamilySearch

Both by blog and email, I received an announcement today that the present CEO and President of FamilySearch International is stepping down effective October 1, 2015. His replacement has been named. Here is the announcement from Paul Nauta of FamilySearch:
The FamilySearch International board of directors has elected Stephen T. Rockwood as the company's president and chief executive officer, succeeding Dennis Brimhall, who will retire. Rockwood, who most recently served as director of the international division at FamilySearch, becomes president and CEO on October 1. 
"Steve is an extremely capable, experienced, and respected leader with an immense passion for our mission and our people," said Elder Allan F. Packer, Chairman of the Board. "As president and CEO, Steve will bring a rich combination of management skills, customer focus, business acumen, and a can-do spirit that will build on the vision and work of Dennis Brimhall." 
After leading FamilySearch through many innovative changes including focusing the organization on developing a compelling customer experience that greatly simplified finding genealogical connections, and encouraged young people to begin a life-long love of family history, Dennis Brimhall will retire. 
"I join the board in my deep appreciation for Dennis' leadership, customer focus, and vision for what FamilySearch is and can become," said Rockwood, "We look forward to building on the vital groundwork he has laid with continued innovation." 
Prior to joining FamilySearch, Rockwood specialized in creating unique service offerings for worldwide customers of such brands as MasterCard International, AT&T, Disney, Office Depot, and Citibank among others. He was also a successful entrepreneur building two companies from the ground up that were later acquired by larger companies. 
"With his international experience, deep appreciation of our accomplishments, and the energy and skill to drive additional transformation, Steve is well suited to lead our very talented FamilySearch organization and will facilitate further expansion to audiences worldwide," commented Brimhall.

Discovering Birth Records

Many newly minted genealogical researchers are surprised to learn that government issuance of birth certificates is a relatively new development in the United States. For example, in Arizona, statewide birth registration did not begin until 1909 and general compliance did not occur until 1926. There are no "birth certificates" before 1909 in Arizona. However, birth records are free and searchable for the time period from 1855 to 1939 on the State Department of Health website, See Researchers should be careful to distinguish "birth records" from the concept of a "birth certificate."

First, a few helpful links. Here are two useful pages from the Research Wiki:

I would also suggest searching the Research Wiki for "find ____ birth records." You just insert the name of the state for a Research Wiki article about finding birth records in any of the 50 states. 

If birth certificates are not available, where do you go next? Well, the answer to that question involves listing almost every type of record available. Generally, the next place to look for birth information is in any record that might have recorded the birth. The alternatives are listed in the United States Record Selection Table in the Research Wiki. For birth information, the following types of records are suggested, including some I added:
  • Vital records
  • Church records
  • Bible records
  • Cemetery records
  • Obituary records
  • Newspaper records
  • Census records
  • Biographies
  • Naturalization and Citizenship records
  • School records
In many cases, the birth date can only be calculated from an age or assumed age in another record. There are a lot of reasons why you may not find a birth record. Here is a list of some of those reasons:
  • The birth took place in an unexpected location. Sometimes babies don't wait around for the mother to be in a convenient place to be born. The mother could have been traveling or visiting relatives and the birth place my be difficult to locate. In some cases, the birth could have been outside of the country or at sea. 
  • The jurisdictional boundaries of the birth place may have changed. It is important to research the history of the boundary changes because changes in the jurisdiction of the location can affect where the historical records are located. 
  • It is entirely possible that no record of the birth was ever made. In this case, a calculated birth date is all that is available.
  • There could have been a record of the birth, but the index of the record is incorrect or incomplete. The best practice, in the event a record cannot be located with an index, is to search the entire record both for a time period before and after the assumed date.
  • You may be searching for the wrong family. The surname may be wrongly recorded or you have assumed information that is not accurate.
  • The child could have been adopted, a foundling or illegitimate. Any one or more of these circumstances may prevent discovery of the correct birth record.
  • The person may have changed their name later in life and never disclosed their birth name.
Most of the reference books about genealogical research have a chapter or more about vital records. Understanding the process of creating birth records will give you a much better chance of finding an appropriate record. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Essential Books for Genealogy

Do you remember books? They were those paper things with a heavier cover that some of you may have lugged around during your early school years. Well. guess what? As genealogists much of what is useful and necessary in researching our ancestors is still stored in those paper pages. All you with bibliophobia can take comfort in the fact that many of these books are available in ebook editions or are already online. The following list contains those books I consider essential to an understanding of genealogy. Some of them seem to be overly topical or specific, but they are essential none-the-less. You may disagree because of your own particular interests or ancestry, but by and large, reading and/or studying any of these books will assist you in pursuing your goal to discover your ancestry. You are certainly welcome to add your own suggestions in the comments to this post.

Another point is that there may be an existing surname book or local history that would be extremely valuable to you and may be of no interest to me. I have done a list like this some time ago, but I decided to compile the present list without reference to the previous one (or ones) just to do one from my present perspective.

This list is in alphabetical order by citation. I think that some of these books are more useful than others, but rather than give a "review" of each book, it will suffice to have a list. By the way, as search on for the word "genealogy" comes up with over 1.2 million items, most of which are books. (Firm), and D.C.) Board for Certification of Genealogists (Washington. Genealogy Standards, 2014.

Anderson, Robert Charles. Elements of Genealogical Analysis, 2014.

Anderson, Robert Charles, and New England Historic Genealogical Society. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995.

Anderson, Robert Charles, George Freeman Sanborn, Melinde Lutz Sanborn, New England Historic Genealogical Society, and Great Migration Study Project (New England Historic Genealogical Society). The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999.

Baxter, Angus. In Search of Your British & Irish Roots: A Complete Guide to Tracing Your English, Welsh, Scottish, & Irish Ancestors. New York: Morrow, 1982.

Black, Henry Campbell, 1860-1927. Black’s law dictionary. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 2009.

Clemensson, Per, and Kjell Andersson. Your Swedish Roots: A Step by Step Handbook. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2004.

Durie, Bruce. Scottish Genealogy. Stroud: History, 2012.

Eichholz, Alice, and Ancestry Publishing. Redbook: American State, County & Town Sources. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004.

Evans, Barbara Jean, and Barbara Jean Evans. The New A to Zax: A Comprehensive Genealogical Dictionary for Genealogists and Historians. [Champaign, IL]: B.J. Evans, 1990.

Everton, George B. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America. Draper, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2002.

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1990.

Herber, Mark D, and Society of Genealogists (Great Britain). Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History. Stroud, Gloucestershire [England]: History Press, 2008.

Humphery-Smith, Cecil R. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. Andover, Hampshire: Phillimore, 2010.

Jacobus, Donald Lines. Genealogy as Pastime and Profession. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1968.

Kinealy, Christine. Tracing Your Irish Roots. Belfast: Appletree Press, 1999.

Maxwell, Ian. How to Trace Your Irish Ancestors an Essential Guide to Researching and Documenting the Family Histories of Ireland’s People. Oxford: How To Books, 2008.

Meyerink, Kory L, Tristan Tolman, and Linda K Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2012.

———. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2001.

Minert, Roger P. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany. Woods Cross, Utah: GRT Publications, 2001.

Ryskamp, George R. Finding Your Hispanic Roots. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1997.

———. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, Calif.: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984.

Ryskamp, George R, and Peggy Ryskamp. Finding Your Mexican Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Pub., 2007.

Sperry, Kip. Reading Early American Handwriting. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1998.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997.

The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Weil, Fran├žois. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America, 2013.

Take Time to Read a Book -- A new feature

Yesterday, I took the time to figure out how to check books out of the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library. I then went down to the first level, which is two stories underground and one level down from the underground Family History Library and walked the stacks. This activity immediately took me back in time to my earliest memories of searching the stacks in the Phoenix Public Library when I was about eight or nine years old. Reading books online is certainly more convenient and works better into my frantic life style, but there is something immensely important about seeing all those books carefully lined up and cataloged on the shelves. I can hardly convey the feeling of walking into that immense array of shelves.

It is summer at the university and my trip to the stacks was solitary. There were only one or two students studying at tables as I ventured into the human wilderness of books. After finding the specific book I was looking for, I returned to my old habit of reading the shelves. I quickly located the genealogy related books and found a significant storehouse of books on this subject. Nothing much compared to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, but a significant collection none the less. When combined with the Family History Library upstairs and the Social Sciences Library where I was browsing, there is a useful and impressive collection of books.

As I selected a couple of books to read, I realized that I had neglected this important area of my own background and failed to share my love of books with my blog readers. I did post a list of essential books just recently, but a cold list is no substitute for a review. I do not review books in the traditional way, pointing out the problems or benefits of the book, instead, I usually communicate my own reactions and thoughts about the content. I have been reviewing chapters of the book:
Meyerink, Kory L, Tristan Tolman, and Linda K Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.
but I realized that I had gained access to a goldmine of information in the BYU Library and that it would be nice to share some of that information with my readers (those I haven't driven away already by my opinions and commentary). My benefit will be to return to my habit of reading two or more books a week. I have been known to read more than a dozen, but that was long before my life became complicated and I began spending so much time writing.

Part of my motivation for beginning a book review feature is that I am acutely aware of how few genealogists or would-be researchers are acquainted with the benefits of reading genealogy books. My observations in both the Mesa FamilySearch Library and here at BYU is that visitors to the Libraries rarely, if ever, look at the books. I was asked a question the other evening and I took the person asking the question over to the shelves nearby and pulled out the book that they needed to answer the question. From what I could tell, the person was dumbfounded and didn't really know what to do with this strange answer to her question. I am sure she was asking, "Does this person really think I will read an entire book just to answer a simple question?" Well, actually the answer her reaction is "Yes, I do expect myself and others to read books and answer their own questions." 

One of the books I picked up in the BYU Library (my shorthand name for the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library) turns out to be a delightful book as follows:
Rogers, Colin, and Colin Rogers. Tracing Your English Ancestors: A Manual for Analysing and Solving Genealogical Problems, 1538 to the Present. Manchester, UK; New York; New York, NY, USA: Manchester University Press ; Distributed in the USA and Canada by St. Martins’s Press, 1989.
In this day of instant technology, it is good idea to remember that genealogists are interested in history and even an older book can have an immense value to our research efforts. This pre-computer-technology book will be my first official review in this ongoing series.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist -- Chapter Eighteen

This is an ongoing series of chapter by chapter comments on the book,

Meyerink, Kory L., Tristan Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

I am now commenting on Chapter 18: "Documentation and Source Citation" by Amy Harris, PhD., AG.

If you have been reading my blog lately, you probably realize that I have lot to say about this chapter's subject. Here is a quote that sets the tone of my discussions as well as this particular chapter:
In many ways, it is not whether one receives payment or not that sets apart the amateur from the professional genealogical scholar but rather the standard of documentation that one adheres to in one's work.
I am not sure that the dichotomy between "amateur" and "professional" holds up in the context of historical (i.e. genealogical) research and reporting. Failing to cite sources does not make one an "amateur." Also, the term "amateur" does not automatically imply poor or sloppy work. There is a much deeper issue here and that is the need to analyze and properly incorporate sources as well as cite them. As I have pointed out many times previously there is a tendency in certain levels of genealogical inquiry to exalt form over substance.

No matter what your position with regard to the need for formality in citations, there is a absolute need to identify your sources with enough particularity that subsequent researchers can duplicate your searches and verify your conclusions.

This particular chapter has some rather lengthy and numerous footnotes. I might note that very few of the other articles in the book have comparably long and involved notation. Perhaps the author was making a point in including long and overly explanatory footnotes? It is my own style to include all references within the text of my posts (if you haven't noticed). I try to consistently make reference to any source that I utilize, no matter how obscure. Of course, I have no expectation that anything I write in this fashion will be published in a prestigious journal, but I think that footnotes interrupt the flow of the text in some cases and including the sources with the quote or idea is less intrusive.

The author does not discuss other ways of inserting citations. Many currently popular journals require citations to be inserted into the text. Footnotes, as such, are also liable to be put at the end of chapters or the entire document, i.e. endnotes. I think that the way the document incorporates notes and the content of those notes, quickly influence whether or not a reader is willing to plough through the document at all. I am also not particularly a fan of writing the paper in the footnotes. Reading such a paper is like listening to more than one conversation at the same time.

To repeat, I certainly agree that citing sources is necessary. I am currently faced with more than one surname book containing information that cannot be verified due to the lack of citations. I would be grateful for any attempt at telling me where the authors got their information, irrespective of the formality or lack thereof.

You may wish to review some of the preceding chapters:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Elements of Research -- Part Twenty-five: The not-so-final conclusion

All things, both good and bad, come to an end sometime and this series is no exception. I guess, what it boils down to is that genealogical research is a rather complex activity and encompasses a huge spectrum of individual interests and goals. On the one hand, there are those who are satisfied in copying a few names into an online family tree. At the other end of the spectrum, there are professional genealogists who adhere to a complex system of proof statements and citations with the aim to publish their conclusions in journals and other publications. Some of those at the professional level also provide genealogical research services to clients for pay.

Due to this dichotomy within the genealogical community, we find several areas of tension, with substantial pulls from all the views of how genealogical research should be done. The overriding issue is accuracy and consistency. No matter how the process is characterized, it is essential that the conclusions reflect the broadest possible selection of historical documents and records. It is also extremely important that each and every record or document consulted by recorded so that the researcher and any subsequent researchers, can reproduce, if necessary, the method by which the conclusions were derived.

The main activity of genealogists (family historians or whatever) involves identifying, locating and searching historical records of all kinds for information about their (or their clients') ancestry. Once those documents are searched, any pertinent information is recorded with a citation to its exact location. As the researchers assembles the information, he or she begins the process of evaluation and interpretation. In some cases, it may be helpful to future investigators for the researcher to record their thought processes, but always recognizing that the discovery of additional documents or records or a re-interpretation of the existing records can completely change or modify any previously made conclusions. All genealogical conclusions are always open to modification and abandonment.

Complex issues of copyright law and plagiarism have influenced genealogical research for decades. For a variety of reasons, researchers have come to believe that they own their historical discoveries and conclusions. This attitude manifests itself in a variety of ways from the publication of research findings with claims of copyright protection to the hoarding of information with a refusal to share that information even with close family members. Whether this protective attitude originates with the hoarding compulsion or from an expectation that the researcher will be compensated by recognition or monetary gain, the results of these claims acts as smothering blanket on the entire research process. As a result, each generation of researchers has been forced to redo much of the work done by previous researchers. This is especially true when the previous research efforts were lacking in source citations.

Any genealogical conclusions that lack adequate documentation of both the source of the information and the thought process of the researcher, will always require duplication of effort.

Genealogical research is essentially a process that includes both methodology and theory. The methodology can vary and the theory has been sadly neglected over the years. As with most aspects of our modern society, technology has had a significant impact on the entire genealogical research process. The availability of online, digitized copies of a substantial number of historical records and documents will continue to change the way research is conducted, i.e. the methodology, but will have little impact on the theory. The difficulty is that the theory of how and why genealogical research is conducted is far from fully developed. It is very difficult to talk about genealogy or family history, as such, without encountering such a wide response to make communication almost impossible.

Part of this difficulty has come from the incorporation of inappropriate terminology, borrowed from other activities, that impedes the process of understanding and applying effective research activities. This spectrum of terminology and jargon was recently epitomized by the recent trends to make genealogy "entertaining." This particular trend obscures or completely abandons the core activities and motivation and the need to adequately research and identify ancestors. This is being advocated at the expense of attracting people to "family history" at a casual and unstructured level.

Previous installments of this series include:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Elements of Research -- Part Twenty-four: More about Daniel Boone

The family tradition and the extended line for the Morgan family I discussed in the last installment, would lead you to believe that my Morgan ancestors were related to Daniel Boone's mother, Sarah Morgan Boone. As I have already shown, this is highly unlikely since the there are inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the data many generations and many states away from the Boone family. The examination of the recorded, individual events in the last blog post illustrates the basic concept of research; that is, the direct relationship between searching historical records for information concerning individual ancestors and their families and the accuracy of the information recorded.

This post and the one following will summarize and conclude this rather lengthy series, but these posts will by no means conclude all that I have to say on the subject of research. Genealogy is entirely a research oriented activity and it is tragic how few of the adherents spend the time and energy necessary to adequately explore and document their ancestry. The issues I pointed out in the previous post may seem trivial, but they illustrate real issues of accuracy and consistency that question the entire structure of conclusions made about this particular family by genealogists stretching back over 150 years.

Here is a brief summary of the ancestral line I am examining:
My mother
My mother's father, Harold Morgan, b. 1892, d. 1963
John Hamilton Morgan, b. 1842, d. 1894
Garrard Morgan, III, b. 1806, d. 1889

In that relatively short time, the accuracy of the information about Garrard Morgan is called into question. By the way, as far as I can determine, the addition of the middle name "Hamilton" to my Great-grandfather, John Morgan, was done by the genealogists after his death, he did not use that name during his lifetime. Likewise, the designation "III" of Garrard Morgan is also a genealogical addition.

The goal of genealogical research is demonstrating valid conclusions supported by the examination of historical records and documents. The individual researcher must come to his or her own conclusions. The source of the information that influenced the formation of those conclusions must be recorded or the conclusions must be considered tentative and unreliable. Notwithstanding the need to derive valid conclusions, to some degree, all genealogical conclusions are basically incomplete and tentative because the discovery of additional historical records or documents may change those conclusions at any time. Each step or generation backward into the past must be supported by some validly derived conclusion (no matter how it is designated) in order to justify adding another generation. If the motivation of the researcher is other than deriving supported conclusions (i.e. trying to connect to royalty or whatever) then every conclusion is suspect.

Two major distractions in the present genealogical research community consist of ignoring the tentative nature of all historical research and constantly focusing on the formal presentation of the conclusions. I certainly agree with the need to carefully document each conclusion. It also helps, in some limited cases, to explain your conclusions, but, as I have previously stated, using the Chicago Manual of Style does not necessarily validate your conclusions.

Back to my illustration. For reference, here is the screenshot of the existing record for Garrard Morgan, III on the Family Tree:

Here is a list of the present sources for Garrard Morgan, III:

The information about Garrard Morgan, III is very limited in the John Morgan book. To me, the recorded research is very superficial, especially for a person who lived his entire life in the 19th Century. Of course, there may be many researchers out there that have extensive information about this individual, but how do I go about finding them? The whole point of the Family Tree is to create a unified family tree, one place where all of the information known about individuals and their families can be gathered and compared. If there are knowledgeable researchers with additional information who are failing to consider putting their information in the Family Tree, for whatever reason, they are impeding the research process and not helping to correct published information.

The first listed source is a death record for Leon Morgan, who died when he was 76 years old in Chicago, Cook, Illinois. His birth date is listed as 28 April 1847 in Greensburg, Indiana. His parents are listed as Garrard Morgan and Eliza Hamilton. What is in the Family Tree presently? Here is the entry for Leonidas McConnell Morgan:

Now, without spending more than a few minutes, I find a discrepancy between the birth date and place recorded in the death record and the date in the Family Tree. Now we go on to the sources recorded for Leonidas McConnell Morgan:

As you can guess at this point, this whole process is ongoing and endless. The compilers and writers of the John Morgan book incorrectly assumed that everything was "settled" and presented his descendants with a beautiful, hard-bound book full of wonderful stories. Unfortunately, they failed to adequately document his ancestry. It is interesting to point out that John Morgan is listed in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census as "John W." In examining the sources recorded for Leonidas, I find even more discrepancies and inconsistencies. This is certainly a fertile field for accurate research.

Other than illustrating the sorry state of the research on this particular family, what is the point? The answer to this question is contained in the 23 previous posts I have written on this subject. Stay tuned for further conclusions.

Previous installments of this series include: