Blog 2022 08 28 Some Ancestry Tips

Do you use Ancestry.com ©?  Whether you have a paid version or use it at a local library, let’s look at a few hints, tips, and tricks.

First off, if you have an account and a tree and are accepting the hints (green leaf), watch out that if the new information has something different that you do not write over what you have.  For example, you have the wife by her maiden name but are now accepting a document with her married name, if you are not careful, it will change her name when importing.  Once you say yes, a pop-up sidebar appears with the details from the record you are importing on the left under the blue header and what your tree has on the right under the green heading.  Here are two ways to not change your tree, you can click on the Was under the name or you can click on the Save as an alternate option or both.

Additionally, when a person has had more than one spouse and children by both, make sure you select the correct other parent when importing them.  By the same token, if you have accepted the wife by the married name and then find the marriage record to accept, be careful that you import the information as the same wife and correct the previously used surname and not as a new person.

How about adding new information and media which you did not get from an Ancestry.com-owned brand?  From the facts section, you can add a new fact and upload the media or you can add a weblink to the information.

Another hint that you might see is the Potential Father/Mother.  I suggest looking to see if there are any attached sources and what those sources are.  You cannot click on the source to look it up but you can capture that information look it up through regular search features.  If there are no sources, I take as suspect, if the location(s) being suggested do not line up quite right, you might want to hold off until you have done more research.  If the location information and dates look reasonable, then go ahead and accept it provisionally.  Then after accepting the information, you must research the person thoroughly to make sure it is correct.  It could be that your Georgia ancestor who was born, lived, and died, was fathered by a man born in South Carolina and died in Alabama.  However, you need to ensure that he stopped off in Georgia long enough for your ancestor to be born and reach an age where he could be on his own before the father continues west.  If you end up accepting a Potential Parent and it turns out to be incorrect, simply delete them.

What if you find a tree that is private and you want to contact the owner?  Click their name and see when they last logged in.  If within the past 30 days, you have a better chance of hearing back, if over a year, then they probably either died or let their membership lapse.  But do not be disheartened.  Get their username and any other information then Google their username.  Many, many people use the same username for multiple apps and you might find an actual email address.

Next, whether you have your own account or use the library edition at a research place.  When using the library edition, if you log in, you are actually using the home edition, if not, then strictly the library edition (LE).  The LE will not allow you to create a tree or make any changes to a tree.  You cannot send messages to people who own a tree.

However, you can and should do all the traditional researching and download documents, along with the source citation information, and save it to a USB drive or email it to yourself.  When finding a tree where you want to reach out to the tree owner, click their name and get their information and Google them for a possible email address.

Blog 2022 06 12 What do you do with information about your ancestor that occurred after they died?

Does that sound as strange to you as it does to me?  I ask because I constantly see trees online that make no sense.  After all, the event the ‘ancestor’ participated in occurred before they were born or old enough to participate or were either too old to participate or had already died.  I even saw one tree where the person served in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.  We have discussed many times about being careful in making decisions based on the person’s name.

Have you considered whether the person could be the father or uncle of your ancestor who wasn’t born or too young?  Might the individual be a son or nephew of the individual and account for the record after the elder had passed away or grown old?

We are all eager to find an ancestor who participated in some great event but we must be careful that the information passes common sense.  At the same time, it may be an indication that other information is incorrect.  This is why we should always try to locate two or more pieces of evidence that support the claim.

Why am I pointing out this obvious information?  Because I am constantly finding people saying ancestor so-and-so served in the Revolutionary War and was born in 1782 or 83.  Or where the patriot is the right age but never came to Georgia where the son or daughter was born.  We must be diligent that our information makes sense.

Good genealogists weigh each piece of ‘evidence’ through very critical eyes to see if it makes sense.  Another example would be Elizabeth Lloyd who married Archibald Smith in Wilkes County, Georgia in 1810.  By 1830, she is a widow.  This widow appears in District 51 of Montgomery County, Georgia in 1830, 1840, and 1850, but not on the 1850 population schedule.  However, she is on both the Agriculture and Slave schedules in District 51 of Montgomery County.  Yet many believe she died in 1855 in Warren County, Georgia because of an intestate probate being opened on the estate of Elizabeth Smith.  Is it likely?  To move over 250 miles as she nears 60 with no known family near that Tennessee-bordering county simply does not make sense.  Even though the name is Elizabeth Smith, we simply cannot accept the estate of the Elizabeth Smith in Warren County as belonging to our person of interest.  Nor can we accept the other popular opinion that she is the 55-year-old Margaret Smith with a 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth since they are in a district other than 51.  Since ours appears on the non-population schedules in District 51 we can be confident she is still in that district.  When did she die?  Don’t know yet.

One more case.  John Livingston died in Pulaski County, Georgia, and was buried in nearby Dodge County in 1857. [i] We know the date because he signed his will in March and when the tax collector came later that year, his wife, Caroline is listed as Executrix on his estate. [ii] That said, Delola “Jane” Livingston is born in 1861.  Jane is a Livingston because her mother was a Livingston but she was not the daughter of John.  The 1860 U. S. Census shows a 24-year-old boarder, Benjamin Veal, living in the household of 39-year-old, Caroline Livingston. [iii] While Caroline used the Livingston surname until she married James W. Parkerson, [iv] her obituary listed her as the daughter of Benjamin Veal. [v] Whether due to ignorance or wanting to give a false impression, the obituary read, “daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Veal,” but they were never married.  Benjamin reportedly died in 1865.  Additionally, many people list John’s father as Ned Livingston based on the 1870 U. S. Census. [vi] They either do not notice or must believe the enumerator made a mistake because 80-year-old Ned is Black.  This is why we must do further research and not believe something based solely on the census.  The Livingstons did own slaves and Ned appears to be a former slave who has stayed on as a farm laborer.

[i] Find-a-grave, database and images, (www.Findagrave.com: accessed 15 June 2022), memorial # 121932676, John Livingston (born 1811 and died 1857).

[ii] Pulaski County, Georgia, 1857 Tax Record, Pulaski Tax Office, Hawkinsville, Pulaski County, Georgia, image, FamilySearch, (www.familysearch.org: accessed 14 June 2022).

[iii] 1860 U. S. Census, Pulaski County, Hawkinsville Post Office, p 299 (inked), dwelling 395, family 388, hhld of Caroline Livingston, image, FamilySearch, (www.familysearch.org: accessed 14 June 2022), citing NARA publication M 653, roll 134.

[iv] Dodge County, Georgia, Marriage Book A (1871 0 1885), p. 142, license # 37, Parkerson – Livingston (14 November 1878), Dodge County Probate Court, Eastman, Dodge County, Georgia, FamilySearch, (www.familysearch.org: accessed 14 June 2022).

[v] “Stroke Causes Death of Mrs. Lola Parkerson,” Times Journal, 28 July 1943.

[vi] 1870 U. S. Census, Pulaski County, Hawkinsville Post Office, p 159 (inked), dwelling and family 1296, hhld of Caroline Livingston, image, FamilySearch, (www.familysearch.org: accessed 14 June 2022), citing NARA publication M 593, roll 170.

Blog 2022 03 20 2022 Are we related?

There are several mobile phone apps and websites which tell you if others who are logged in or have created accounts are related to you and just how they are related.  Have you seen them?

Here is the problem with them.

It is a guess.  In the military, we had an acronym or two that related to this situation.  It was WAG or SWAG.  The S, indicated subjective or scientific, but the rest meant Wild A?? Guess.  The websites and apps may be subjective, but they are still a guess.  In all the years that the most popular one has been out, I have found only 1 who I can truly say I am definitely related to.

Why?  Because I have validated all the generations which appeared on my side of the tree and she had proven all of her ancestral lines to the same point I had.  Since I do not have a complete tree then it is taking information from my tree, merging with the preponderance of other trees or their one-world type tree, and coming up with answers.

However, who to say it is correct?  How far back have you personally taken each line?  Remember, for the typical family, we have 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 2nd great, and so forth.  So by the 5th generation, we are up to 64 lines.  Have you personally proved those 64 lines to that point?

Many of the “relatives” showing up are in the 9-12th cousin range.  That means you have personally traced and confirmed up to 16,384 lines.  I would ask, “really?”  Maybe if it is a direct paternal or maternal line, but all of the others?

My advice.  Treat it as fun and interesting and possibly a new line to trace or finish tracing.  But do not treat the findings there as fact unless you both have confirmed those lines back to the common ancestor shown.

Blog 2022 01 09 “2022 Genealogical Goals “

I started this last weekend then was OBE, overcome by events.  Does that happen to you?

I hope and trust you discovered some good information last year in your family research and I hope my blogs have helped.

I spent quite a bit of time reviewing the five standards as defined by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) because it is foundational to our research.  In researching recently for a client back their immigration ancestor in the mid-1600s of Virginia, I came across a lot of misinformation I needed to weed through to determine fact from conjecture or simply getting multiple men of the same name mixed up.  And while we may make notes, even about conjecture, we must go back and firmly decide whether it was true or not.  Even I almost left a piece of information in my report which clearly stated that an allegation was not proven to be true but upon reading it just before sending it to the client I realized that I had proven it false and clearly showed it.  This involved whether a man’s first wife, Mary, had died and he remarried an Elizabeth as many people believe.  However, early in his life his wife, Mary, signed her Dower in the sale of a piece of land.  It is Mary who is named in the will.  It is also Mary, who filed the will and rejected it since she did not receive her Dower.  Therefore, there was no second wife named Elizabeth.

We also took a look at often overlooked court records.  This is where we usually can find the most information about a person and family.  Most, bought and sold land, applied for licenses, served on juries, and had many other interactions with the government.  I also stressed to look at ALL parts of the estate records for overlooked children, daughters’ marriages, and kinship.  In one case, if there was any doubt who a man’s daughter married, the fact, “for love and affection to my daughter,” he deeded his son-in-law and daughter, named, a tract of land.

We also reviewed how to access these court and other government records at FamilySearch.org.  It is a free site, the best kind, and they are constantly digitizing new records.  There are some records that require accessing from a Family History Library or an affiliate public library and we discussed how to find them.

One other overlooked part is comparing the timeline of our ancestors to historical events.  There are lots of reasons to do this and one of the biggest is that it might help explain the WHY.  Why someone suddenly died, why they became an invalid, or why they might have moved.

My past blogs are available for free on my website at www.AtlantaGenealogy.com and you can go back and reread any of them, any time you like.

Beware of the on-line Ancestral Search Companies


Beware of On-line Genealogy Search websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch!

 

No, I am not crazy when I say this, I am absolutely serious.  You have probably heard a genealogy lecturer say that you have to do your own research of the “evidence” but it goes beyond the level you might be thinking.  Before you link to that leaf that the commercials are telling you to, let me give you some examples of what I am referring to.

 

First, let me explain what these websites are and what they are not.  The documents you find on Ancestry.com are scanned versions of the original and are very trustworthy as original sources.  Photos, stories, and family trees are things individual users have uploaded and attest to, but do not have any real scrutiny behind them.  Same thing on FamilySearch.org.  Check on where the document came from.  But you must do more than that, you need to do diligent validation of the information.

 

Simple misstatements of the facts.

The above is from Ancestry.com and the individual is my patriarch who moved his wife and 2 children to Georgia in 1752 and as you can see, they are citing 2 sources.  The trouble is, the dates represent 2 Gilshots, father and son.  If you were to take this at face value, you would be very mistaken.  When we start researching all of the evidence, we sometimes find dates that are totally inconsistent.  Let’s start with the fact that Gilshot applied for land in Georgia in 1752, being married with 2 children.

 

Now look back at that date of birth.  I doubt a 12 year old was married, had 2 children and was applying for land in Georgia.  The more we research, the more we find no documented evidence on when Gilshot Sr. was born.  Furthermore, the above says he died in the town of Screven, Wayne County, Georgia and that he died in 1809.  This first part is a simple error based on people unfamiliar with Georgia.  There is the town of Screven in Wayne County and there is the County of Screven which was cut out of Burke County in 1792.  All the Georgia documents relating to Gilshot refer to Burke County or Screven County.  But again, without the research you would miss this.  The 1809 date comes from Gilshot’s Will and a newspaper notice by the estate administrator which reflects 1809.  Trouble is, there is a Power of Attorney (POA) signed by Gilshot Jr in 1792 attesting that his father, Gilshot Thomas, is dead.  That means the only logical conclusion is that the Will and newspaper announcement refers to Gilshot Jr.  Plus, we have a Deed of Sale for the family land in Delaware signed by Gilshot Jr. in 1805.

 

That is one example from Ancestry, here is a search in FamilySearch

Here again, the person adding this information has not fully researched what they are posting.  They do have father and son but the dates are way off and the 3rd entry is not even close.

 

Gross misuse of sources

So you get the idea that you have to look at the sources.  But what does that mean?  That means really getting into the source and weighing it against common sense.  Let me give another example, one that I had forgotten, until recently, which family member it pertained to.  My 3rd great grandfather, Lewis Thomas, and Elizabeth Mixon had 9 children, one being my 2nd gg-father, Banner (1833-1885) and another his sister, Martha Thomas (1823-Unknown).  Martha married David Cason and they lived in Pierce County, GA.  I know when everyone died and is buried except Martha.  A quick search on Ancestry and a whole lot of people are showing she died August, 1870, in Harris, Texas and they have the evidence to prove it.  The Texas Mortality Schedule.

Let’s examine this closely.  Age is 48, which puts date of birth as 1821 which is off by 2 years.  Next, Female, that is correct, next block, B – Black.  Stop right there, this woman, is listed as a black woman and the Martha Thomas Cason we are researching is White.  Born in Georgia, OK. Married, we knew that.  Died August 1869, not 1870 as everyone put.  Worked at keeping house and died of some chronic ailment.  Besides the obvious, let’s look at this from a logical review.  The name Martha Thomas is not unique and we already showed that a very unique name like Gilshot Thomas had a Senior and Junior so this could be coincidental.  Plus we know David died in 1862 and they had little kids then.  All the children grew up, married and died in Georgia, so this record does not make sense and is not corroborated so we would have to either hold it as suspect or dismiss it all together.  So even though literally hundreds of Ancestry users are tagging that source and calling it accurate, research shows it and they are wrong.

 

Typing Errors

I remember my sister getting really bugged because several of our cousins had posted our mother’s death date incorrectly.  I researched the error and found they got the incorrect information from the same family website and not from any public research site.  The owner of that website, me, had mistyped the date.  The root of the error was me.  Therefore, always check and double check any information before you submit it to the public.

 

Faulty Index Records

My final two examples come from research for a client.  I found an error the Indexer for Ancestry made on at least one whole page from a Massachusetts Marriage Register.  Virtually all on-line genealogy search websites have indexes of the hand-written information found on original documents.  These are abstracts and in some cases transcripts but are subject to human error.

Example 1

 

This might be hard to read but let me help you.  I copied a portion of the page from the 1899 register and corresponding portion of the index.  You can see that the index does not report any of the fathers correctly.  All fathers have their wife’s last name.  Howard Atherton Cutler’s mother is shown as Melvina A. Rogers and his father is listed as Edward R. Rogers instead of Cutler.  His wife, Edith McKeen’s parents are listed as having the last name of her mother, Crawford.  Look near the bottom, if John Edward Foster is a junior as indicated than his father has the exact name, but here, the indexer put John E. Carpenter.  Also notice that the indexer has everyone being married in Waltham, MA but look back at the Cutler\McKeen marriage and at the Foster\Tyler marriage.  The Cutlers were married in Terra Haute, IN and the Fosters in Somerville.

 

The last example comes from the same research in which I located their ancestor in the 1940 Census and found the page.  I searched everyone on the census page in the Ancestry Census database for 1940 and not a single one showed up in the index.  You might have to use other work arounds to find the actual census such as if you know where they lived exactly (in my case, Precinct 1, Dallas, Texas) you can locate the census for that area and go page by page.

 

 

Am I saying do not use websites?  Absolutely NOT!  I am saying you have to do your own homework and read the hand-written records and weigh what they say against what you believe to be true.  Most indexes are very good.  Ancestry does allow you to notify them of errors and they will make attempts to correct them.  I have done this several times and they have all been corrected.  I am waiting to hear on the Massachusetts Marriage Records corrections.  Anything entered by a user should automatically be suspect.