“What will be left of us when we are gone? My father? Bits of faded newsprint amid sheaves of crumbling construction paper. Serrated-edged black-and-white photographs shot by Kodak Brownies. A boy of six, on his back porch, hugging his black dog, squinting into the great American Dust Bowl sun of 1939. A book of scraps. Brittle pages. It was left to me to reassemble him. I learned to make sense of the remnants, to find meaning in the missing pieces. A man of paper.
I’m loving Unlock the Past‘s series of genealogy booklets. The first one I read was Pitfalls in Family History by Graham Jaunary’s of Adelaide Proformat. I easily knocked it over in one sitting and that’s the beauty of these booklets.
Graham discusses many of the barriers that we face when conducting family history research. So what is a pitfall?
a concealed pit as trap for man or animal, an unsuspected difficulty or danger or an error into which it is easy to fall.
I am yet to set up a ‘Research Logbook’ as suggested by Graham. I can see the benefit of keeping a summary of my research because I’ve already gone through the Queensland BMD online databases numerous times with the same people. He suggests:
Simply rule the page into columns headed: date, research, location, record, search range, result/comment.
Graham discusses problems with indexes and recommends always viewing the original document. He also explains how the spelling of names varies and why; and also the significance of the calendar change from Julian to Gregorian. Fortunately, I have not come across date problems yet! But I think we have all be stumped by name changes before.
I was intrigued to read about how it used to be a Victorian pastime to (falsely) link the family tree with the rich and famous. There are even cases where they tried to colour coordinate a coat of arms to match the decor of a living room!
A great summary of many of the pitfalls, which reminds me of saying that family history “it’s more of an art, than an exact science”.
For FamilySearch indexing I alternate between the beginning jobs and the intermediate ones. A beginning batch is usually typewritten so it is pretty easy to read and decipher the letters. I like to do the UK World War 1 records as they are interesting to read. These are intermediate and are harder to read because the hand writing can be messy and sometimes the words are crossed-out. The records are also older so they have aged and faded.
Things I have learnt from indexing:
Places which existed at the time of the record may not exist anymore and therefore can’t be found on Google Maps.
Always consult the original document as there may be interesting tidbits written in the margins or crossed out information which may be useful.
Even if the transcribing process has someone proofreading the work, it does not mean error-free names.
People lied about their age in their military records…. and got caught. So some of them signed up again when they were old enough.
New records are being indexed all the time, so it pays to recheck your brick walls every couple of months.
Indexing is a great way of filling in some time and it doesn’t have to be hard to do. Just select the beginner ones and start there.
This week I discovered why it is best to use maiden names in family trees. A maiden name is the surname on the birth certificate and is sometimes know as birth name.
I was looking in the online cemetery records for a married couple. I found the husband James, but he was buried in the same plot with Meridith of a new surname. I wondered if it was just a transcription error but the two surnames were very different. I filled in a form to ask the cemetery if they knew where Meridith was buried.
In the meantime, I was looking for the same couple in the State Library of South Australia. I was surprised to find photos for both of them, and a painting of the house they had both lived in. Reading the notes for the house painting I discovered that James died in the first year of living in the house. Meridith lived in the house for fifteen years. During that period she remarried her second husband and took on his surname.
At last an answer to my cemetery puzzle. Meridith is buried with her first husband, but under the last surname she used while alive – that of her second husband.
So no matter how many times a female marries and changes her surname, her maiden name stays the same, and that’s why we use birth names in a family tree.
I am loving Family Historian. It has been easy to pick up and learn as I have gone along. It’s taking a bit of getting used to using people’s maiden names rather than their married names, as I have done with folders on my desktop (I suspect I’ll have to update them sometime soon).
I am patiently awaiting my family tree software I ordered last week from Gould Genealogy. I must confess I had no idea what to purchase so I went off a tip from Shauna Hicks (Diary of an Australian Genealogist) who was thinking about purchasing Family Historian after hearing Jill Ball (Geniaus) had converted over. I read a couple of online reviews and was happy about my choice, particularly as I am a visual learner.
I went to The State Library of Queensland twice to access records on Ancestry. When I was there the man next to me suggested I download the records to a USB drive. He said he used to write everything out by hand, but now just downloaded the records to his USB drive so that he could save time and read it at home, and print it out if needed.
I save my files as .MHTML or .MHT which are an archive file for HTML or web files. It saves each page as one file, which can then be viewed in a web browser.
This doesn’t work so well if the source image is rather large and the font is small. In these cases, it would be better to Print the Screen (“PrtSc” button found in the top right of your keyboard) and paste the image into Photoshop or Microsoft Word.