Friday, November 30, 2012

Follow-Up Friday - Helpful and Interesting Reader Comments from the Past Week

This was a pretty good week for comments from readers on Genea-Musings posts - so I'm going to pick and choose the ones to Follow Up on:

1)  On Pruning My Ancestry Member Tree Hints (posted 23 November 2012):

*  Diane B wished:  "Randy, how I wish we could sort the hints by Record Collection. That would be so helpful to me. In fact, there are several sorting capabilities that I would like - for instance, pulling the hints up, sorted by birth date of the person - that would be great. Another wonderful option would be if we could just eliminate certain Record Collections from the hints entirely. Well, we can dream!"

My comment:  I seem to recall that there is a way to do this by editing the Hint URL to a specific database.  Someone described it back during the Ancestry Death Contest posts.

*  Taco Goulooze said:  "Hi Randy, even though I never add the indexes as a source, they do let you know there is material out there that could provide more insight. I don't accept them as sources, and the same goes for the user trees, but they do contain a wealth of information; whether it's accurate or not is something to be researched. That brings me to this point: wouldn't it be nice if you could somehow store that information directly in your to-do list, or in some other way connect it to someone in your tree without adding it as a source straight away? In that way, you could create a sort of research aid set of records to go with each individual, family and/or event, and keep that separate from your actual source list. Does that make sense, or is it just the ramblings of someone that wake up too early and needs to go back to bed?"

My comment:  Different strokes for different folks here.  I use indexed databases as sources all the time, noting that they are derivative sources.  Every source has errors, and derivative sources probably have more errors than original sources.  But they are often the only source available that doesn't cost money to obtain.  I only chase original sources for my ancestors, not for  the collateral lines in my database. Of course, if original sources are found for the collaterals, I use them.  I mine the indexes for information on persons in my database.  If someone contacts me about it, then the index provides the means to find the original record.  

To your point about storing the information in a to-do list, did you mean right on Ancestry, or in a software program?  You can type, or copy and paste, the index information right into a To-Do list in your genealogy software.  It makes sense, and I'm sure that some researchers do that.  I do it on occasion, and should do it more often!  

*  Unknown commented:  "You can choose to hide all of the hints from Ancestry member trees, just leaving the hints from record collections or indexes. If I find an index, and don't already have the original record, I add that item in my to do list in my software."

*  Rorey Cathcart noted:  "I've used "Ignore Hint" extensively. It's particularly helpful in those instances where the Member Tree Hints are not actually a match. But I am with Diane B. Some serious upgrades to the hint functionality would be great.

"Taco, I do attach indexes as sources. But I like your suggestion alot. I've found the To-Do and Shoebox features becomes unwieldy over time. And I'm trying to decide how to incorporate them into my new database.

"I'm moving my primary database to RootsMagic from Ancestry. Attaching an index as a source allows me to pull up a list of all references to that source. That way, when I go to the original, I have a list of everyone I'm looking for in that record set. I realize indexes are not quality sources and weight them accordingly in my database, but they are sources until the original record is obtained. For my paying clients, where time is limited, these sources are frequently in the Research Recommendations portion of my reports."

*  Desta Elliott commented:  "The hints feature of are great, but they do demand a lot of work. I wish there was a way to eliminate all the the "family collections" data which are useless, since there isn't any source.  Also, the member family trees are of marginal value.  If I could suppress those two data types, it would make it a lot easier to troll those shaky leaves."

2)  On "How Can We Communicate 'the Right Way?'" (posted 26 November 2012):

*  Tamura Jones offered a great definition for the acronym GRUMBLE:  "You get a beginner's license when you pass the Genealogy Research Undergraduate Master Board Licensing Exam :-)"

*  Tim Forsythe noted:  " Let's not forget that we need to also get the manufacturers of genealogy software, particularly database editors and online tree generators to enforce or at least encourage best practices including the GPS."

*  Celia Lewis said:  "I'd love to see short genealogy articles in the local papers. After all, if they publish daily Astrology, surely they're open to weekly Genealogy tips. Wouldn't you think? Since the ones who might benefit most don't attend conferences, don't join genealogy societies etc.... we have to go out to find them. Love Tamura's GRUMBLE! And, at 70, I'm not about to spend time and money on any more edjimakashun!"

*  Dr. William L. Smith said:  "I really like Celia's suggestion. I've done some newspaper submissions. If each us who write a blog, would compose 5 short, appropriate Genealogy Tips, and send them to 1-5 of our local newspapers (especially weeklies that still exist), we all might be VERY surprised how many of them get published. The key is getting the information where the folks Randy described will see them... not the rest of us that are seeing his posts! ;-)"

My comments:  There are some print newspaper columnists who address genealogy - Sharon Tate Moody in Tampa and Jim Beidler in Pennsylvania come to mind, and then there are all of the digital Examiner columns.  You and I would read these in the print newspaper if they were available, but would the general public?  Only if they're printed on a page read by a lot of people, like the comics or the TV guide.  It's worth a try - I hope someone tries to write columns and submit them to a newspaper to see the reaction.  Another way to reach some of the target audience is to submit articles or columns to local genealogical societies for their newsletters.

*  Unknown asked:  "Have you checked the 1840 census for her parents? I know it won't mention her by name, but, if you know the other children, you may be able to narrow the dates. I would also definitely check for other children. That is a very large gap. In my own family, I have stumbled on children that were stillborn or died very young that were never mentioned in family records."

My response:  I have, and did not find either Thomas J. Newton or Sophia Newton.  I should have noted that in my post.  I'm in the process of looking for other Hildreth children - it was a fairly popular name in the 1800s.

*  Rorey Cathcart offered:  "Your conclusion on the birth year seems sound to me based on the evidence you have.  Given your conclusion of Sophia born in Vermont, you may want to focus on narrowing down when/why her family was in VT. In your event lists for her parents, locations favor MA heavily with no other evidence for VT. I think this conclusion needs more support.

"As an aside, are you not using the 'Quality' feature in RootsMagic? I'm curious that you editorialized the info here in your post but it is not reflected in your sources at your my.rootsmagic database. I ask because I'm in the midst of deciding to use them in my database or not. "

My response:  Sophia Newton's father was born in Maine according to all reports (except one census IIRC), but the Newton family was from the Southborough, Massachusetts area.  Her mother was born in Sterling, Massachusetts.  I didn't mention that the mother was widowed, and had two young children before she married Thomas J. Newton.  So we have a guy probably visiting family in Massachusetts, or looking for work, meeting and marrying a widow, and then they have two children.  I didn't mention the other child, a son Thomas J. Newton born before Sophia Newton.  His records say he was born in Cambridge, Vermont also.   I have searched through Cambridge town records and Lamoille County land and probate records for them and found nothing.

After I wrote the post, I noted that my Quality ratings were sadly lacking, so I spent some time adding them for my ancestral families.  Thanks for the reminder!  It worked.

*  Ida Skarson McCormick said:  "Have you checked the church records?"

My response:  No, I haven't.  It's a great suggestion.  Thank you.  Cambridge, Vermont, Sterling, Massachusetts  and Southborough, Massachusetts should be my first targets.  I will check the FamilySearch Library Catalog first.

*  Lisa Suzanne Gorrell offered:  "Have you looked at the siblings of Sophia Newton? You might find evidence of birth location based on where & when they were born?  Are there no town records to search?"

My response:  I have found marriage and death records for Sophia Newton's brother, Thomas J. Newton, and they indicate Cambridge, Vermont as his birthplace in 1832.  

There are town records for the towns - the Massachusetts town records just became available on both Ancestry and FamilySearch.  Ancestry has only the vital records and are indexed, while FamilySearch has more than vital records and are not indexed.  The latter is a fairly hard slog, and is an ongoing project.  I have looked through Cambridge, Vermont town records on microfilm and found nothing that pertains to this family.

4)  In "First Look at Subscription Site" (posted 29 November 2012):

*  Michael W. McCormick said:  "I just noticed that the address of is the same as the address of Fold3 in Lindon, UT. As a side note, only currently has 9 newspaper collections. They are kind of obscure because of the military focus. Newspapers on have been hard to search compared to their other historical records. Even though we already have the 6,400+ paper GenealogyBank I am happy to see is working to make newspapers a more user friendly source. Based on their genius city directory search feature released this year, I hope their new focus on newspapers will set a new bar for user experience--although content is low so far."

*  Sharon noted:  "I was really excited to see a new newspaper source. When I checked the actual newspapers for the states I really need (New Jersey and Tennessee for example), they are the same very limited number of papers everybody else seems to have for those states. Too bad. But I'll keep my eye on it."

My comment:  We need someone to do a comparison of the different sites as far as duplication goes.  My first reaction to the list was that the Ancestry collections might be the Small Town Newspapers collection (which was removed from Fold3 in the last year) plus other newspaper content (especially content that is free, like The New York Times).  Time will tell.  With only 10 to 15% of the number of newspapers and page count that the competition has, has a long way to go.  

Thank you to all of my readers for their helpful and interesting comments.  

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

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