Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What I Found When I Organized My Files and Resourced My Data

Today I made it through resourcing and organizing my digital files on my maternal grandfather's ancestral line. It took me almost 2 months to complete. I started with this line because my grandfather's parents, William Francis Elvey SUCKLING and Anne Elizabeth STULL were both born in Canada. I needed to fill census data that I was missing because I didn't want to search all the microfilm at ACPL. I had previously just focused on my direct lines and skipped the collateral lines. With Ancestry's completion of the Canadian census collection, it was time to fill in the gaps.

Not only has this task made me more organized and taught me the "correct" way to cite my sources, it has also made me reevaluate my sources. When I started my research, I must admit, I was a collector of records. I tended to not analyze all of the data that they gave me. In the process of fixing my sources, I also added transcriptions of the records to my citations. I can't believe how many new things I found because I had overlooked them before.

Here is a list of some of my discoveries (I will put the new information in red):

James FARRELL married Elizabeth Jane HOLLINGER. (This was found on the death and marriage records of some of her children.) She was born in Pickering Township, Ontario county, Ontario (Upper Canada). In 1851, the family was living in Pickering township. (Which is extra good because Mornington township, Perth county, Ontario doesn't have 1851 census records and that's where I had assumed that they were living.)

Frederick Henry STULL was living in Arizona (Aryzona) and working as a silver miner at the time of his marriage to May Isabel OLIVER in Wellington county, Ontario. No wonder I could never find him before or after his marriage. I found his in the 1900 and 1910 US censuses and May was a widow in 1920. I didn't find his death certificate in the Arizona records though.

Abraham ROGERS was married to Margaret SINGER according to death records of one of her daughters. I also found more of their children by searching Ontario birth and death records for the ROGERS surname in Lincoln county along with witnesses to their sisters marriages and grandchildren living with Margaret. Besides Anabelle, Caroline, Edgar, Elizabeth, Euretta, Georgiana, John S, and Juliette, Abraham and Margaret were also the parents of Mary Ann and Ellen. I was most bothered by the fact that I had marriage announcements for Mary and Juliette that I had never added to my database.

I also found the 1920 and 1930 US censuses for Hazel SUCKLING and the 1930 US census for Grace SUCKLING. I apparently had never thought to look for them in the US even though they were married in Niagara Falls, New York.

The witness for Jemima (nee ELVEY) SUCKLING's death in England was her daughter Jemima HILL. I found the census records for Jemima and living in her home in 1851 was her grandfather John ELVEY. I then found John living with his wife Ann in the 1841 census.

This list does not include all the census records that I found to fill in the gaps and births, marriages and deaths from Ontario and England.

This exercise has shown me how far I have come as a researcher since I started in March of 2008. In just a year and a half, I have seen how important it is to evaluate all sources, cite everything and read every bit of information on a record. Although I wish that I had just done it right to begin with, I am glad that my database and research will be better after this undertaking.

Of course I still have to resource and organize my other three grandparent's family branches. I wonder what I will find that I missed in those...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wish I Could Add a Note to Shoebox Items on Ancestry

I use the Shoebox on Ancestry to save records for my "may be related" individuals. I find that this is a "safer" option that just bookmarking them. If a database were to change between me bookmarking a record and using the record, I could have a dead bookmark and that would not make me happy. (And I have had this happen.)

I like that I can save these stray records somewhere in my account without attaching them to anyone. But here is what I wish I could do:

Add a note to the record so that I know why I added it.

For example: Why did I save a 1900 census for a Patric KEEFE in May of 2008? For one, it's not for a Patric but for a Patricia. KEEFE is not a surname in my database. So why did I save it? Because I remember finding this woman living with my ancestors in a previous census and wondered if she was related to them. That much I remember. What I don't remember is which family she was living with.

Clicking on the record shows that this is actually the census where Patricia was living with the BASCOM family. Since she is listed as a boarder born in Ireland, she's probably not related to the family.

This reanalysis of a record would have been so much easier and quicker (and not relied on my memory) if I could have just attached a note to the record detailing why I had saved it.

Ancestry allows you to share a comment on a record. But I don't want to share it with everyone because I don't really know much about this person or record. I just want to save a private note so that I don't have to search for it again.

Do you use the Shoebox on Ancestry? Would you like the ability to comment on Shoebox items? Leave a comment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

6 Steps for Scanning and Preserving My Grandfather's WWII Photo Collection

Way back in May, I borrowed my grandfather's WWII photo collection from my grandma. In July, I scanned his veteran newsletters and other documents he had collected about the war in Alaska. (He was stationed for over 3 years on the island of Shemya in the signal corp.) Today I finally got started scanning his photos.

Here is the process that I am using:
1. Photograph each page of his scrapbooks in order to have a record of what the page looked like before I remove any photos. I want to be able to put it back just like I found it. I completed this step this morning and put the photos of each album into separate folders on my computer. I wasn't too worried about the quality of these images. I just want something to refer back to if I get the photos mixed together when scanning.

2. Scan the photos while wearing archival cotton gloves. Even though this collection was passed around the country so that other veterans' could make copies of my grandfather's photos, I am still trying to keep my fingerprints off them. (I did run into a problem with the gloves: the touchpad on my laptop wouldn't work. Good thing we have lots of spare computer parts in the house. Of course every time I want to move the mouse I use the touchpad and have to remember that it doesn't work and I need to use the mouse sitting right there.)

I am scanning the photos at 600 dpi into TIF files. Remember that TIF files give you the best archival quality when you go to do any photo editing. They take up more space, but they will last.

I am currently working on this step. I love that my grandfather took so many photos of his time in Alaska, but it makes a lot of work for me.

3. Edit the photos to the correct size. Since the photos are odd sizes, I scanned them too big and now need to crop out the extra space.

4. As part of step 3 and editing the photos to size, I am also going to use a naming structure on them. I will probably name them something like: Roy SUCKLING WWII photo collection 001 - airplane.tif. This format will tell me the name of the collection, the item number and what the photo is to easily find it later.

5. Publish the photos. I have a few ideas of how I want to share the photos:
  • A coffee table book of photos for my family members. By creating a book, I will be able to share the photos and only have to make the book once. I had originally thought about making a scrapbook, but I think that this will be the most efficient way. Especially if others want a copy and I think they will. What companies and products have you used to create a photo book?
  • Online photo album. Not sure exactly what I want to do with this part yet. I would like to put the photos online in order to share them with other researchers. Many of the photos are of other soldiers and are labeled with the name and address of that person. This is something that I will need to think about. What ideas do you have that would make the photos accessible to others?
6. The most important step: cherish these photos forever. I have to give the albums back to my grandma, but having digital copies for myself and creating a book will make sure that the photos last a long time.

Leave a comment with your tips and experience of publishing and sharing your ancestor's photo collections.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wishing for a Census Enumerator Index

I really wish that the enumerators on the census had been indexed. I always forget to check this information when I get a new census record. It's not needed for the citation and I don't write it on my transcriptions.

I have found one of my ancestors, Thomas Russell MATTHEWS was an enumerator in the 1850 census in Bloomfield township, Jackson county, Indiana. It show how he spelled his name (2 Ts) and what his handwriting looked like.

Of course the handwriting will only matter if you are viewing the original. Did the original enumerator make the state and local copies or did someone else? Was the original or a copy enumerated? Never thought about that before. Going to have to do some more research on the census records.

It's also helpful to know who to blame for the sloppy handwriting or who to thank for the perfect handwriting. (I sometimes wish I could give a donation to those who took the time to write nicely.)

I wonder how many of my ancestors I have missed as enumerators on the census. How many have you found? Leave a comment and let me know.