Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chronicling America - a Genealogy Goldmine

If you're researching your family history in the United States during the years 1836-1922, you need to know about Chronicling America. Chronicling America is a a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for Humanities through the National Digital Newspaper Program.

Through this program, various institutions in each state are awarded grants to help select and digitize about 100,000 pages of historic newspapers. Each year, more newspapers and more years are added, giving historians and family history researchers more access to information that has previously been limited to those able to physically visit a library or archive, or pay for someone to copy the article for them.

I love digging through this treasure trove of information. I found out that one of my great great grandfathers had a series of restaurants and bars, and that a distant cousin died on a cruise ship in Nova Scotia in 1911. I've found wedding and birth announcements, flowery obituaries, county fair winners, hotel visits by out of town relatives and articles on elections.

What will you find? Well, you won't know until you start searching. Let me know what you discover. It's out there, just waiting for you to find it.

I'm off to continue uprooting my family tree!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Oops! This Willard is a girl!

So, I'm going down the line of my great grandmother's eldest brother, trying to locate some living descendants to contact to share family history information, and I find a family tree that shows that great great uncle John has a great grandson named Willard. Woohoo! Celebrate, add another twig to the family tree by copying the other person's info for Willard and start searching for more information on Willard, right?

Next, I find a marriage license for Willard. And Willard is marrying another guy in the late 1930's. No way! That just didn't happen back then. I go back and double check the names. Willard and Gordon got married. For real. No kidding. There it is in black and white, or rather in pixels in shades of grey.

Now I have to go and figure this one out. Folks in the 1930's weren't very accepting of two males marrying. So, the index I found has misinformation, or either Willard or Gordon is a female, or something else is going on. I have to keep an open mind, not jump to conclusions and stick to facts, verifiable facts.

I do some more digging around on the internet and stumble upon an image of the actual marriage license. Aha! Willard is the bride! So, I go back to modify Willard's record on the family tree to show Willard is a female. I check the actual census images, which I did not do the first time around, and find that on each one, Willard is plainly marked as female. This is my fault, as I didn't verify what the other researcher had for Willard. I just accepted it and moved on. My mistake! And I know better.

Now I have a ton of work to do to go back and verify the details for family members with unusual names, just in case. And while I don't think there's a boy named Sue in my tree, there is a very beautiful girl named Willard. I'm so happy she's there, that I discovered my mistake and I corrected it. Cousin Willard is on the other side now, probably shaking her head at my mistake, ensuing quandary and the head slap I gave myself when I figured it out. I do hope she's happy that I found her and her family. 

From now on, I have to remember: when you add a new person or line from another's family tree, you need to verify the information. I was so excited that I didn't stop and start verifying Willard's information starting with the census and birth records. Had I double checked, I would have found out that Willard is a female, and I wouldn't have wasted valuable research time on my little adventure. 

So, I'll take a good hard look at what the other tree or source has for the person or line I'm researching. Does the information make sense? Is the person's birthdate in keeping with the parents' birthdates and death dates, if I have those? I've seen people in family trees with birthdates before their parents' birthdates, i.e. John is born in 1780 but his father isn't born until 1810? What about the marriage date, if there is one? Did John get married in 1781, a year after he was born? Unless John's royalty, which won't happen in my family, something is just right with those dates. I'll check it out.

What about the birth and death dates of any children? Do they pass the smell check? Was John born when his mother was 5 years old? I could find out that John's mother died and the person shown is the stepmother who raised him, or the birthdate for his mother could be wrong. I've had both things happen in my quest to uproot my family tree.

On several trees that other researchers have for my mother's family, they have my grandfather as his brother's father and my great grandmother married to my grandfather, even though the dates don't make sense. They have the correct dates. The relationships are way off! Someone messed up on the relationships. Others just copied without verifying. The error spreads. I've tried to contact the tree owners, but they either aren't interested, thought my e-mail was spam or aren't checking that e-mail account.

I'm off to do some verifying of information on my family tree and adding source information for any documentation I find. And then, it's more uprooting the family tree. Have a great weekend. May you make a wonderful discovery on your family tree!