Sunday, October 22, 2017

I Finally Visited My Local Family History Center!

Grave of Betsey Kezar, my 4th great-grandmother.
The book I read at the Family History Center traces her line
back to my 10th great-grandfather, George Keyser.

Nine years into family research and I have finally visited a Family History Center. Nine years! That tells me that I am not using the Family Search website enough. If I were, I'm sure I would have had a reason to visit before now.

A week or so ago I was trying in vain to catch up on my blog reading over lunch when a post I read suggested using Google Books in family history research. I have used Google Books in the past, but I'm sure I haven't searched for all of my ancestors, so I plugged in Moses Bean Hatley, the ancestor I wrote about in my last post and the name of the place he settled in Quebec, to see what I would get.

One of the books that came up on that search was available to view on Family Search but only from a Family History Center. So, it was finally time to make the arduous half hour journey to Plainview to check out the library.

What I found was more like a reading room than a traditional library. The main room was lined with bookshelves and file cabinets and also had three large tables; one where two volunteer staff members were helping researchers, one containing two desktop computers for public use and another table with internet connections for users who want to bring their own laptops to plug into the center's internet.

I was able to get on a public computer right away and, since no one was waiting for it, use it until I left.  I finished taking notes just as the daytime hours were ending, so I didn't have a chance to explore a lot or ask about the available resources. But I did see a shelf copy of The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society's New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer. That's a book I've been wanting for a couple of years now, but the $90 price was prohibitive, so I was excited to see that. 

From the conversations I was hearing behind me I gather there are some very serious researchers working regularly at that center. So, I'll have to borrow a laptop and get myself there again very soon.

I'll keep you posted and let you know when I make that grueling trip again.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gen Doc Study Group - Chapter 1

I wrote recently about DearMYRTLE's newest study group; seventeen Google+ Hangouts where she and several panelists (see this post for her announcement) are discussing each chapter of Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas W. Jones.

To save a little money, I first purchased the Kindle edition of the book, but last week I had to admit that I just study better with a printed text and so I ordered the print version from NGS. Once it arrived, I reviewed the first chapter again, reread the homework submitted by the panelists and rewatched the first hangout. Now I am ready to put my thoughts on this chapter in writing.

The panelists for this study group have been asked to share only about a part of each chapter that speaks to them, both to respect copyright and for brevity, and I am going to do the same.

As Dr. Jones points out in his book, there are several reasons that "serious genealogists" document their findings. Crafting accurate citations forces us to analyze records deeply, it allows us and other researchers to find those sources again, it shows the quality of the records and the scope of the research and it even helps researchers to avoid plagiarism.

Grave of Moses Bean(e),
Lakeview Cemetery, No. Hatley, Quebec.

Moses Bean(e) was my fourth great-grandfather. We visited his former homestead and grave this summer. This line seems to be very well documented, appearing in at least four books that I have found online. One, in particular, I once thought would be the Holy Grail for a lineage I had seen in some Ancestry member trees taking me back at least 11 generations to my supposed 8th great-grandfather, John Bean of Exeter. He was a Scotsman and a prisoner in the English Civil War and was brought to the colonies and sold into indentured servitude in Exeter, New Hampshire. It took me a long time to find the book online and in one sense, it did not disappoint. The book was obviously a huge undertaking, a labor of love, I'm sure, for the author, a distant cousin. His genealogy took my line all the way from John Bean to my 2nd great-grandfather, Denison Bean of Compton, Quebec.

Denison M. Bean

But there were issues. I know a little something about genealogy now that I have found this book. I know I cannot take it at its word. I know I need to evaluate the evidence, examine citations, study those sources for myself. And there I was disappointed because there was nothing to evaluate, examine or study. Just vague references to archives and, as I was sad to discover this summer, an entire passage about Moses and his wife Elizabeth that matches a passage from an earlier work almost word for word.

One of the participants in the study group shared her experience with having a printed genealogy handed to her many years ago. It too was unsourced and it has taken her 30 years to verify that most of the information in it was indeed correct. Wouldn't it have been great if she could have spent those 30 years adding to the research instead? As much as I am looking forward to digging into some archives in New Hampshire, wouldn't it be great if I could as well?

I have to admit that if someone took over my research today, much of it would have to be verified independently from scratch too. Citations are missing, incomplete or not attached to the record they describe. I don't want to be that researcher. By the end of this study group, I hope that I will be a different researcher; a researcher who digs into her sources to understand them as completely as possible, who can follow even citations-in-progress back to their source, who can easily show others the quality and scope of her research and who shares only original, commonly known or well-attributed information in her conclusions.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Family History Month - Giving Back

Yep, that's me!

If you're someone who volunteers regularly, I applaud you, sincerely. I never seem to find the time to do so on a regular basis.

This weekend, though, I'm going to spend some time giving back to the genealogy community. I'll be joining with (so far) 59,220 others to index records at Family Search during this year's Worldwide Indexing Event (link here) from Friday through Sunday.

If you haven't indexed for Family Search in a while, you may see some changes. You are no longer tied to your desktop because indexing has moved to the cloud and is now accessible from most devices.

If you haven't indexed ever, please don't be intimidated. There is plenty of help on the website and you can take it at your own pace.  The records are fascinating and you know that you'll be helping other researchers connect with their families.

Since 2006, volunteers have made 1 Billion records searchable on Family Search - a truly breathtaking number but still only the tip of the iceberg - I'll be very interested to see how many records we can add during this event.

Monday, October 16, 2017

NGSQ Study Groups

Do you know about this benefit of National Genealogical Society membership?

NGS members not only have access to the quarterly journal and other publications (including an online digital archive) but we are also able to virtually meet with other genealogists and discuss some of the NGSQ articles together in a monthly study group.

As someone relatively new to the formal study of genealogy, I was very happy to read about the NGSQ study groups on a blog that I cannot remember now. There are currently four groups; the one I joined that meets the second Tuesday of the month at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time on Google+ Hangouts (headset and webcam required), two that meet on a chat platform and another in Second Life.

My first attempt to join was foiled by a technical glitch on my end, but I was able to join last Tuesday evening. A different glitch meant that I wasn't able to print the article until the day before the meeting and only had time to read it through once, so I just listened this time and followed along with the discussion which centered around a handful of questions that our moderator posted a few days ahead of time.

I always learn from reading journal articles, but the study group taught me a few more things, too. And of course,  just knowing that you are going to be part of a discussion gives your regular reading more focus.

No attendance is taken here, so don't hesitate to join just because you may not be able to make it every month. If you want to learn more, even if you aren't an NGS member at the moment, you can follow this link to the NGSQ Study Group page.

Maybe I'll see you there.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday - George Washington Smith and Marjorie Elizabeth Dean

George Washington Smith, my maternal grandfather, was the 5th child and 4th son of George Robert Smith and Frances Isabella Parker. I'm sure I've mentioned here before that my grandfather, although Canadian, was named for America's first president because he was born on February 22nd to an American father.

He married Marjorie Elizabeth Dean, my grandmother, at Minton United Church in North Hatley, Quebec on August 10, 1935. Together they had one daughter, my mother, Janet Isabella.

My grandmother is not the only Dean buried in this large and pretty cemetery. Her aunt Maggie Dean and husband William Thompson are buried here as well as her uncle Robert Irwin Dean and his wife Georgie Talbot. Unfortunately we didn't get here early enough in the day to get help from the office in finding those graves this past visit.

Although my grandparents are buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Sherbrooke, Quebec, they are not in the large Smith plot. My grandfather and his younger brother bought adjoining plots in another section.