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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Genealogy in Transition and Transformation: The Old and the New


If you have been doing genealogical research for many years or have just started, it may not be obvious that genealogy as a persuasion is in a state of rapid transition and transformation. From my perspective working on digitizing records in a major state archive, over the short time we have been here, I have seen some dramatic changes. Those changes involve some of the following issues and many others:
  • Our ability to access records around the world is increasing dramatically
  • Time restraints on finding and accessing those records are decreasing
  • The time from acquiring the record to when that record is digitized and available online is decreasing 
  • The time it takes for individual researchers to publish genealogical findings and make them available around the world is collapsing into being almost instantaneous
  • The ability of individuals to collaborate and share research tasks is becoming ubiquitous
  • DNA is adding a scientific twist to the old process of identifying and locating relatives
What does all this really mean to those who are still in the paper/search the records stage of genealogical development? It means that the vision of the future expressed by MyHeritage.com's CEO Gilad Japhet is rapidly becoming a reality. Here is the video for reference.


For example, I recorded the number of Historical Records available on the MyHeritage.eom website about ten days ago. That number was exactly 9,067,418,625. Now, ten days later that number has grown to exactly 9,078,987,922. MyHeritage.com has added 11,569,297 records in ten days. At that rate, they could add over 400 million records in one year (about 422,279,340.5). This is just one of the companies digitizing and adding records online.

The number of genealogists who have to spend hours and hours in obscure repositories is diminishing rapidly. My experience recently helping people from Latin America find their ancestors online is an excellent example. Let's suppose that you come from Colombia in South America. The FamilySearch.org website has digitized, online, free Catholic Church records for the country from 1600 to 2012. These records contain 12,555,984 images.

What do these numbers actually mean? They are simply part of a trend that will continue to provide more and more records which will ultimately feed the record hints of the large online database programs and coupled with DNA will make finding relatives and ancestors in ever larger areas of the world more tied to online family tree programs. So, if you were to start your family tree today and you were from someplace in America or Europe, as time passes, you will be more and more likely to have the process fully or partially automated.

Where does that leave the library/archive bound researcher? Here is one example. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has just added the Mayflower passengers and five generations of their ancestors to their online database. This means millions of people around the world will now have a verified and extensively documented source for some of their ancestors. How many more such databases will there be in the future? As we get millions of sources added to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, to Ancestry.com family trees, to MyHeritage.com family trees and Findmypast.com's family trees, and Geneanet.org's family trees, and Geni.com's family tree, and so forth. Then we add in millions of DNA tests and what do we get? Now I am back to the beginning of this post.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Thanks to MyHeritage, Father and Daughter Reunited on The Today Show


Father and Daughter reunited on The Today Show thanks to MyHeritage DNA

Quoting from an email announcement from MyHeritage.com:
Sarah, from Fort Wayne, Indiana (now living in the Netherlands) was placed in adoptive care as young child by her mother. To try and find her biological family, she took a MyHeritage DNA test that her husband purchased for her. She was shocked when she got a match to her biological father, Arland, who didn't even know she existed. 
Sarah and Arland then spoke on the phone numerous times, but today was the first time they met.
These types of reunions are going to become more common as MyHeritage.com and the other DNA testing and matching companies keep growing. I am glad this one turned out so well. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Christening Date is not the Birth Date (Usually)


Many of the genealogy database programs, both online and desktop, show entries for a birth date and a christening date. The christening date is a church recorded date of the baptism. In many countries, particularly those with Catholic or Protestant heritages, birth dates may not be recorded as frequently as the christening date. Frequently, the christening was performed shortly after birth, but there are a lot of exceptions. For example, it is not unusual to find some or all of the children in a family with the same christening date. It is also not unusual to see a christening or baptism date when the person was much older or even as an adult.

The example above shows a common practice of estimating the birth date the same as or the same year as the christening date. In the case above, this might be accurate, but since there are no records of the birth date, the date should either be shown as estimated or calculated. I prefer to leave the date blank unless I have a record that actually provides a birth date. In the case of this John Sutton, a marriage record shows he was married at age 22 in 1705, so the christening date is consistent. The marriage date could also be used to estimate a birth date.

The issue of the unsupported birthdate is made more serious due to the very common name of the person. There may be a "John Sutton" born in Winwick, Lancashire in 1683, but it might not be the one married to Elizabeth Robinson or the father of the listed children.

Genealogy is not a "fill in the blanks" pursuit. You do not get a prize or more credit for filling in all the blank spaces. The information used to make the detailed entries should be entirely supported by the source records. Speculation may help with research but it should never become the basis for entering data in your database unless clearly understood and clearly marked to be speculation, especially if your family tree is online.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Finding Your Mayflower Ancestors and Mayflower 2020

https://mayflower.americanancestors.org/
I recently wrote about the completion of the Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants, 1700 to 1880 that is on the AmericanAncestors.org website. However, the main connection to the database is on the commemorative portion of the website commemorating 400 years of Mayflower history. Here is the direct link.

https://mayflower.americanancestors.org/

If you go to the New England Historic Genealogical Society website, you will find a prominent link to the Mayflower database.

So, how do you find out if you have ancestors who were Mayflower passengers? The real answer is by doing exactly what genealogists have been doing for quite some time: you do the research necessary to connect to one of the descendants of the original passengers. The advantage of having the database online is that once you get back into the mid-1800s with your research, you could check the database to see if any of your ancestors show up as descendants. If they do, then you could apply for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, commonly called the Mayflower Society.

If one of your relatives has already become a member of the Mayflower Society, you may be able to find a more recent connection and speed up the process of applying for membership. An explanation of the process is found on the Society's website on a page entitled, "Join GSMD." There are annual fees for membership in both the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

Because of my own New England ancestors and other ancestors such as Mormon Pioneers, I am aware of several lineage societies I could join. Specifically, I have at least three documented original Mayflower passengers. My Fourth Great-Grandmother, Thankful Tefft, is already a documented descendant.

The significance of the database to me personally is that it provides documentation for probably thousands of people in my ancestral family. Now that it is searchable, assuming I pay the subscription price to NEGHS, I can search for specific ancestors and save a huge amount of time documenting known lines. I will likely find that I am also related to additional Mayflower passengers.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Whats Wrong with these Dates?


These dates come directly out of the Northiam Parish Register and they are correct. So how is that possible? If you are a very experienced genealogist with a lot of time doing English research, you may know the answer immediately. But if not, you may have to spend some time doing some historical research before you can resolve what seems to be conflicting dates.

The answer turns out to be both simple and complicated. Before 1752 in England and most of its colonies, the New Year was on March 25th. Here is the explanation from The Connecticut State Library, Colonial Records and Topics article, "The 1752 Calendar Change."
In accordance with a 1750 act of Parliament, England and its colonies changed calendars in 1752. By that time, the discrepancy between a solar year and the Julian Calendar had grown by an additional day, so that the calendar used in England and its colonies was 11 days out-of-sync with the Gregorian Calendar in use in most other parts of Europe.

England's calendar change included three major components. The Julian Calendar was replaced by the Gregorian Calendar, changing the formula for calculating leap years. The beginning of the legal new year was moved from March 25 to January 1. Finally, 11 days were dropped from the month of September 1752.
Learning about the calendar changes will help explain many other seemingly difficult dating issues. 

Mayflower Families Descendants to the Fifth Generation is now Complete


Quoting from the AmericanAncestors DataBase News from the New England Historic Genealogical Society post dated May14, 2018 and entitled, "Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants, 1700 -1880 is now complete:"
We are extremely happy to announce that we have added our final volume to the Mayflower genealogies, and this database is now complete! This project started over a year ago, and our volunteers have invested over six thousand hours of work to scan and index this invaluable information. 
Overall the Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants database contains 31 volumes, 10,155 pages, and over 575,000 searchable names. The word cloud image presented above, shows the 100 most common surnames found in the database. 
Today’s addition, part three of Henry Samson volume 20, is the final part the searchable database of authenticated Mayflower Pilgrim genealogies, Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants, 1700-1880. This addition adds 726 pages, over 16,000 records and over 50,000 searchable names related to the descendants of Henry Samson. This database index includes birth, baptism, marriage, death, and deed records, and where available, the names of parents and spouses.
Estimates of the number of people around the world who are descendants of the original, verified, Mayflower passengers who arrived in America in 1620 run into the tens of millions. For many years, I have been using the "Silver Books," which are the basis for this project, to help with my own research into my New England Ancestors, including at least three passengers on the Mayflower who survived. In fact, I may have several more connections.

I first wrote about this database back in 2017. Since then I have written about some of the problems that accompany trying to maintain an entry for a Mayflower Passenger on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. See the following" The Saga of Francis Cooke on the FamilySearch Family Tree.

My hope is that this new database will help to disentangle my own New England ancestors. By the way, access to this database and many others on the website requires a paid membership, the "free" membership given to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not work.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

MyHeritage Presents FootballDNA

https://footballdna.myheritage.com/?utm_campaign=Football%20Legends&utm_source=email
8 legendary football (soccer) players reunite on the pitch to discuss national rivalries, reminisce and laugh together — and see their ethnicity breakdowns revealed through the MyHeritage DNA test. Having lived through quite a few World Cup tournaments over the years, I am aware that these players' names will not be familiar to many people in the United States but this is a fabulous promotion for those in the rest of the world. See this video for more of the story. This is one of the best Genealogy/DNA promotions I have yet seen.

8 Football Legends Uncover Their Origins with MyHeritage DNA