Friday, November 23, 2012

Follow-Up Friday - Interesting and Helpful Reader Comments

It's Friday, so here are some interesting and helpful reader comments, along with my response if that is called for.

1)  On Dear Randy: Is Find A Grave a Reliable source? (posted 20 November 2012):

*  Rorey Cathcart said:  "Sure I consider FindAGrave a source like any other. How much weight and credibility I give any memorial on it is where the analysis comes in.  When I use the site I try to limit my takings only to what I can see on the screen of the gravemarker itself. And then I try to source the information through different means. 

"Like you Randy, FindAGrave or my own trip to the cemetery, is sometimes the *only* evidence of someone's existence. Especially in the case of deceased infants."

*  Gerry commented:  "I think we are inclined to give too much credence to things that are written on stone.

"There are often two stones for Civil War veterans, one that matches the stone for a spouse, another the familiar government issue. Thus the spectacle of Jerome S. Campbell, 1829-1901, resting between his Sarah and his veteran's stone inscribed Jorom S. Campbell, 1839-1901.  The practice of obtaining markers for previously unrecognized veterans is laudable but can lead to errors. Wesley Greenman died of his injuries in 1866, but his stone says he died Dec 13 1928. Coincidentally, that was the exact date of death of his brother, veteran William Greenman, who led a long and well-documented life, and was buried in a different cemetery entirely. 

"Based on comparisons of death certificates with gravestones, engravers regularly confuse burial dates for death dates.  Monuments erected by the loving children long after the death seem especially prone to incorrect birth years.  Some monuments are placed in a cemetery where family members are buried although the decedent is not buried there at all. 

"Some of the FindAGrave memorials are detailed and helpful. Others are undocumented and suspect.  Not that I don't use 'em all the time - but as suggestions, not as evidence."

*  Jacqi Stevens noted:  "I was going to mention that those "set in stone" engravings aren't always correct themselves--and then I read Gerry's comment, providing even more instances! In addition to errors on dates, spelling errors are also possible, as I've seen in my own family lines. It all just teaches me that using a preponderance of evidence is the wiser move. One fact alone--even engraved in stone--may not provide an accurate picture."

*  Cormac offered:  "Gerry explained it even better than I did. I have scores of memorials there that have nothing but maybe a year of birth or death. No picture of a gravestone or marker. Like Gerry said, I would use Find A Grave as a suggestion and/or starting point. If you have a date of birth or death, where is your proof? Yeah, some memorials have a picture of the marker, but paraphrasing what Gerry and Jacqi said, not everything that is carved in stone is gospel."

*  Jim (Hidden Nuggets Genealogy blog) said:  "I have found in most cases that Find-a-Grave to be very accurate (at least with my own ancestors). I love it when there is a digital image of the gravestone. I have requested and received a number of photographs to be taken. There are volunteers on the site who will try to go out and take a photograph if one does not exist."

*  bgwiehle noted:  "Most of the comments have been focusing on the Find-a-Grave memorials as if they are unchangeable. Among the great things about the site:
- memorials can be amended with more detailed dates and places, pictures, links, comments, etc. They can be transferred to someone more closely related. Comments can be added when flowers are left. You can request a photo of the grave from local volunteers.
- contacts can be made with memorial owners or with people leaving flowers. If someone is making memorials for a whole cemetery but your person is missing, contact them!
- collections of memorials can be organized using virtual cemeteries

"Yes, there are errors and there are incomplete or preliminary pages. Come back later to see if the memorial has been updated. Or better, provide the correct information to the memorial owner so everyone benefits."

*  Bart Brenner commented:  "A source is a source is a source... Dare we ignore any source in our research? I think not. Having a source, however, is not the same thing as evaluating a source, its information, and its evidence. As you point out, Randy, it is the evaluation (ala the Genealogical Proof Standard) that transforms data collection into genealogical research. As usual, thanks for a good job well done."

*  Gerald Cohail offered: "There is one more thing to keep in mind when viewing information at Find A Grave -- even if you have an image of the headstone available.  If your ancestor died before the mid-1850s and their gravestone is made from granite, with a nice pristine face, it is not likely an original. That would make the dates upon it suspect, in my mind. The headstone should reflect those common to the time period in which your ancestor was buried.   Some headstones were obviously placed or replaced with modern headstones decades after the death and burial occurred."

My comments:  I thank everyone for a civil and expanding conversation.  The discussion centers on two views - one that the Find A Grave memorials should be used as a finding aid or starting point because they might be wrong or incomplete, and the second that "a source is a source" whether it is wrong or incomplete, and the researcher needs to resolve all evidence conflicts.  

To me, a gravestone is evidence that someone MIGHT BE buried at the site.  The inscription on the gravestone provides information about the person probably buried there - name, dates, perhaps more.  So it is "evidence."  Yes, it may be wrong or incomplete.  Someone has photographed the gravestone, or has consulted the cemetery records, and has contributed the information to the Find A Grave database.  The Find-A-Grave database is no different from any other online database - it contains information about al ot of people and is searchable.  If the gravestone photo is provided, it is as good as me walking up to it in person (as long as the Find A Grave memorial is correct).  If birth, death, marriage or family information is available, and the Find A Grave memorial is the only evidence I've found to date, I will use it as a source.  I should then try to find other evidence to support the Find A Grave evidence.  If I find and obtain a birth record, I will add that information and the source citation for the Birth event.  I don't delete the Find A Grave citation.  If the two records (or others) disagree, then I need to evaluate their veracity - which is accurate?  If I obtain a birth certificate from a government entity, I consider that to be an original source (record copy) and it usually carries more more weight than a derivative source like Find A Grave when evidence is critically evaluated.  My proof argument should compare and discuss the available evidence, and may lead to a conclusion.

bgwiehle's point that the Find A Grave memorials are not "set in stone" is a great one - a researcher can request more information and obtain more evidence to be critically evaluated.

2)  On Exploring RootsMagic 6 - Post 1 (posted 20 November 2012):

*  Yvette Hoitink noted:  "I've just upgraded to RootsMagic 6 and was very disappointed that a bug that has been bugging me still has not been fixed.

"I have a whole list of Evidence Explained! quality sample citations in Word. When I add a source in RootsMagic, I use the FreeForm and then copy-paste the reference footnote from Word. But when I do that, some spaces aren't copied and words get glued together that should not be. Does anyone else have this problem, or better yet, a solution?"

My comment:  Has anyone else had this problem?  I have copied and pasted a number of citations from one format to a Free Form citation and I don't recall having the problem.  

*  Bruce Buzbee (the RootsMagician) helped:  "The website actually does include all the images for each fact. It only displays one at a time but there are arrows below the image to move back and forth (you can also tap the image itself to move to the next image for that fact).

"On the missing fact types, can you do Lists > Fact type list and edit the fact types and see if they are checked to include when publishing online? If they are, another thing to check is whether the fact has been marked as private in the person's edit screen."

My comment:  Yes, it does.  I knew that it should do this...I probably should have read the Help file!  I will show some of the process noted above in later posts.  

*  Anonymous asked:  "Why are the names not searchable by the search engines? It seems like the main reason for putting your tree on the web is so that unknown cousins can find you. Is that something that will be added in the future?"

My comment:  Bruce covered this in the first Webinar, near the end of the discussion.  My recollection is that since these are not static web pages, they cannot be crawled by the search engines and indexed.  This is similar to Ancestry Member Trees in that they can be searched from within Ancestry, but not by a search engine.  It would be nice if the capability were added in the future as a user option. 

 I can link to my RootsMagic family tree website in my blog and on my other static web pages.  In my blog posts or in an email message, I could link to persons in this tree (e.g., Isaac Seaver (1823-1901)). The real benefit, in my view, of the site is the capability to see the tree persons and the supporting source citations and images, without being behind the Ancestry subscription wall.  

4)  On Mocavo Announces Free Scanning Service (posted 14 November 2012):

*  Laura Cosgrove Lorenzano noted:  "May I address another concern? I looked at both Mocavo and ReadyMicro's websites (I'm a Mocavo subscriber) and I am NOT convinced that it would be advisable to send your one-of-a-kind family material to them to be digitized. While it seems like this project would be fabulous for the reams and reams of contemporary paper we copy our research to, or duplicate photos we have, as an Archivist I would advise against sending anything else. Why? As someone who handles material of historical value every day, and a Consulting Archivist who worked on a large digitization project for a client, I know the disaster that can be caused by providing the material to a vendor who's specialty is high speed scanning not the scanning of historical material. And, while they make an off-handed comment about 'delicate material' on the website, would you want to risk an irreplaceable item in the hands of someone trained to do nothing more than use a piece of equipment? 

"Unfortunately, I've seen it happen with a client. I would hate to see it happen to anyone else."

My response:  Excellent point, Laura.  

5)  Ever since I've highlighted the Spam received each week, I haven't received any!

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

J.M. said...

On: 2) On Exploring RootsMagic 6 - Post 1 (posted 20 November 2012):

Yvette Hoitink noted that when she copy-pastes from Word to freeform citation, some spaces aren't copied and words get glued together that should not be. You ask if anyone else has this problem.

I do - when I copy from word to freeform citation or to notes for a person or a specific event. I don't know why this happens, but it is annoying. Maybe - and this is just a suggestion - it has something to do with the fact that both Yvonne and I are Dutch and our settings are automatically different than US computers?