Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Losing Elaine

The newest post on my Facebook feed stopped everything: my heart, my mind and time. All were suspended as I read and re-read Cousin Elaine's granddaughter's post. A massive heart attack hospitalized Elaine. Recovery prospects weren't looking good. That was last week, an eternity ago.

My mind races back in time to the day quite a few years ago when I ventured into the Hunnicutt surname forum on Ancestry.com to see if one of my cousins had left any new tidbits of info. Spying a lively discussion about a distant relative, I settled back in my chair and began to read. Of course, being a Hunnicutt, I had to add my two cents worth to the chatter. The very next message was from Elaine, "Hi Cousin!"

Friends and cousins, we only knew each other through phone calls, e-mails, Facebook and family history forums. Fourth cousins once removed, we felt more like first cousins, sharing laughter over the funnier family tree entries and tall tales (a Hunnicutt family tradition), and bemoaning that one key piece of information one of us needed to make a documented connection on her tree. Every year, she invited my family to her branch of the Hunnicutt reunion. And every year something happened and I failed to show up.

With tears stinging my eyes, on Monday, I updated her family history profile on my family tree with her date and place of death. Missing from her profile are her funny posts, her steadfast loyalty, her terrific sense of humor, her deep seated love of family and God, and well, Elaine. It doesn't show the huge hole in her family's lives that she left when she went home to God.

Part of me is a tad bit jealous of Elaine. Now she's privy to all of that information that we've been rooting around to find for years! Now she knows why we have at least three Thomas Harrison's in the family during the same time period, and who they're actually named for. We used to joke that the first one to get to heaven had to help the one left behind with research. I hope she remembers that I wasn't joking.

Elaine, can you sneak me a hint somehow? And while you're getting to know the rest of the family up there, can you ask "Original" William if he just made up the family surname when he arrived in America, or if he was he just a horrible speller, a trait he possibly passed down through the generations? Did you take the list of our questions and family mysteries with you?

Rest in peace my dear cousin and partner in digging up the family tree. I already miss you! I hope you'll watch over my shoulder while I research, and if you see something I need to take a look at, just give me a Gibbs slap to get my attention. You know me, I may need more than one. And until we see each other on the other side, remember: I love you more!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Where's the genealogy record index auto correct button?

Banging my head on my computer desk, my cries of frustration send my cats hurtling to safety underneath my bed, peering back at me and waiting until my latest tirade is over. "Not another one!" I moan through gritted teeth, blinking furiously in hopes that what I'm seeing isn't real.

But there it is, staring back at me from my computer monitor: the dreaded mis-transcribed genealogy record. I have the transcribed death certificate record and the imaged death certificate document pulled up, side by side. The transcribed record says the lady's name is Goldie. The imaged document plainly shows the lady's name is Addie. And you don't want to know what I went through to get here. Or maybe you do. That's a whole different post for later.

OK, to err is human, right? And it happens frequently in genealogy. Transcribing handwritten documents isn't all fun and games. It's eyestrain, cursing strange abbreviations and sloppy handwriting, and long hours trying to figure out if that's an "A" or an "O". I do thank all of those who do it on a regular basis! Umpires and referees hear back from the fans when they make a bad call. Who do you scream at when it's a genealogy transcriber who goofed? I usually scream at my monitor, my cats hide, and my husband reminds me that "They can't hear you scream."

And who hid the genealogy record auto correct button? Probably in a drawer in Utah somewhere, gathering dust. (No offense to the hardworking researchers and transcribers from all over the world, including Utah.) But I need that button now and it's no where on my keyboard or on my screen.

So how do I get it fixed? How in this virtual world do I get Addie's name changed on the transcribed record and in the index for the website so the next person researching Addie can find it quickly?

With documentation, sticking to the facts, patience and sometimes persistence, that's how. And I usually am able to get corrections made to the transcribed record. I can't make corrections to the imaged document.

But before I submit my changes in a flurry of keystrokes, I need to make sure that I have my facts straight. After all, I don't want to add to the problem, do I? Adding more errors to errors isn't a good thing, right? I don't want to be known as the chicken little of genealogy.

Can I prove that the transcribed record needs to be changed? Going back in my notes, how did I arrive here with Addie? Is this really Addie's record, or have I totally goofed and it's really Goldie's? Where did I find this information? Did I use published documents or databases, or did I use someone else's notes? Checking my notes, I see that I traced this record down with Addie's husband's name and Addie's documented dates of birth and death. The city and state are correct, and are where Addie lived with her husband and children. She's buried in the same cemetery that is listed on the imaged death record. OK, this is Addie's record. And of course, the imaged document shows her first name is Addie. Now that I've double checked my research, it's time to get the record corrected, the transcribed record that is.

Not enough proof? Time for me to go back and find documentation to prove that the record needs to change, I either go back and carefully collect the proof or I make notes that I need to go back sometime and do this. Suspicions and gut instincts aren't enough to request corrections, no matter how convinced I am that I am right. Hunches are hunches, but facts are facts.

Usually, sites have one of three ways for me to submit corrections: comments section, error reporting page or form, or e-mail. I know that they are going to review my request and maybe even double check my documentation. I am clear and specific on the correction(s) I want made. I give the reason for the correction, and add notes from other documentation, such as "name appears as Addie on her marriage license dated 01 Jan 1890, Richmond, VA". On error reporting forms/pages or e-mails, I include the url of the transcribed record with the error and the url of the image. I keep my sarcastic comments to myself, and vent to my husband or my cats. I keep my communication with the website professional, even though I am not a professional genealogist.

I usually see the corrections made fairly quickly, usually within a week, although some sites aren't updated that frequently. One site I submitted corrections to is only updated once every three months, so I made a note to check the next time he sends the site update notice.