Friday, December 21, 2012

Follow-Up Friday - Interesting and Helpful Reader Comments

It's Friday, time to follow up on reader comments about Genea-Musings posts.  Here is this week's selection:

1)  On Watch Out for Early Dates in Ancestry's "Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988" Collection (13 December 2012):

*  Geolover commented:  "... those who wish for re-indexing by should be very careful what they wish for. 

"Since June they have been reworking the Drouin Collection indexes, in the process mangling place/parish names, putting places in the wrong groups (the rare and valuable 1750s Fort DuQuesne records now placed in "Acadia" where it decidedly was not), and not co-ordinating this reworking at all with the drop-down menu of place-names in the search form. Records are now much, much harder to find.

"A much more minor recent reworking has deleted a lot of information from the extracts from the wrongly titled (in the original) _Calendar of Sussex County, Delaware Wills_. This volume abstracts loose papers from estate files as separated and refiled by the Delaware Archives. They include Administrators' Bonds, Inventories, Accounts and other items in addition to wills. But the reworking now calls each document a will, which is very confusing in addition to just plain wrong in the majority of entries."

*  Barbara J. Mathews, CG, noted:  "My pet peeve is that most towns have several volumes of records, but that Ancestry's presentation doesn't permit the user to figure out which volume the image is in.

"This [Ancestry collection] was based on a microfiche collection. I've used the fiche which clearly are marked and organized by volume. When I access them on Ancestry, I get 'image 2431 of 5861' or similar. I can still find the early images with the overview of the volumes in each town. I just can't figure out where volumes start and end on Ancestry.

"Where this gets irritating is in towns that have transcriptions of earlier volumes. I found a town in which the modern transcripts were indexed but I couldn't find the corresponding "hit" in the original volume.

"Accessing them on Ancestry is easier than driving to Boston Public Library's Microtext Department. I just find my hands tied in that part of my job which is to know what I'm using."

My comments:  So we've graduated, in many cases, from well-defined volumes of unindexed records in books and microfilm/fiche to indexed records in poorly defined volumes.  In other cases, the records are in digital image form without indexes (i.e., basically digital microfilm) that we can access at home, in many cases for free.  Is this a case of the "perfect" being the enemy of the "good?"  

My practice, still being honed as we type, is to use the collection title, the volume title (found above the image), the handwritten or stamped page number in the volume, and the image number of the image in the collection, in my source citation.    

*  Anonymous said:  "My comments are specific to Worcester County records. When you go to the Courthouse, there is a parking garage a couple of blocks behind the courthouse on Major Taylor Drive.

"For older records, go down to the basement, there is an office down there that has books where you can look up the docket number of the case that you are interested in.  Make a note of the docket number. You will then need to go upstairs to the Probate Court Clerk's office and fill out a request form for the file and give it to one of the clerks. 

"Once the Clerk's office receives the file from offsite, they will contact you. When you go in to view your file, DO NOT BRING A CAMERA OR CELL PHONE (security will not allow it). I have been able to use a hand-held scanner there. Obviously, the clerks will ask you if you want them to make copies. I don't remember the cost."

*  Diane B commented:  "Randy, people should be aware that older packets are not stored in the Middlesex County Courthouse in East Cambridge, and it takes a couple weeks to retrieve them after you request them. All in all, ordering the microfilms through the Family History Center would probably be easier, if that's close by.  Also, because it's a courthouse, no cameras are allowed although I did get away with bringing my iphone in. The photocopier was available for public use, I forget the cost."

My comments:  Thank you both for adding to the information in my blog post.  I haven't been to either of these places in the last 15 years, and the rules change.  For Middlesex, the FHL microfilms are certainly the better choice because they filmed all of the papers in the probate packet.  For Worcester, and most of the other Massachusetts counties, the FHL microfilms are the probate court clerk's copies and not the original papers filed in the probate packets.  So, it makes sense to go to the courthouse and work through the procedures required to access the records.

When I was last at Worcester courthouse, the docket books were easily available and I filled out a paper and gave it to a clerk who brought the probate packets to me within 15 minutes.  I had to request photocopies of the papers and there was often a long wait.   I recall that they wouldn't copy documents before 1800, so I extracted the information in many of the ones I wanted.  I sat in the waiting area there to do that with all of the hubbub going on around me.  I then later used the FHL microfilms of the clerk's copies to do transcriptions of wills and other probate papers.  It's good practice to visit the website, or telephone them, the repository to determine what's available, how to obtain them, and the access rules.

Of course, many researchers are unaware that these records even exist, or don't want to go through the challenge of actually visiting the repository and working through the rules to find the records.  

*  LineageKeeper said:  "No. No one else has ever done something like that Randy. You were lucky this time. Like you, I've allowed my attention to slip from time to time, once resulting in disaster (for all of the reasons you mentions sans the 'save' in the trash can). 

"Nightly backups to the cloud and to other external media is the answer. We only have to pound on the same thumb once or twice to get the message and start doing what we knew we should have been doing from the start."

*  David Adams noted:  "I don't recall doing exactly what you did, but I once got a corrupted PAF database. So I went through my backups, all 7 of them. Fortunately the oldest was not corrupted (but the more recent 6 were)!"

*  Les said: "Must have been a strange force field because about that time here on the east coast while listening to roots magic tape on RM6 I deleted my main gedcom. Had it backed up though."

*  JL Beeken commented:  "Every day, Randy. Every single day.

"You did bring my attention to the fact that I really should stop being so d*** efficient about emptying my Recycle Bin."

My comments:  Thanks for the commiseration.  Is that why my thumb hurts?  I'm also thankful that I've forgotten to empty the Recycle Bin regularly!  This post calls to mind the axiom that "there's no such thing  as a useless blog post - it can always be used as a bad example."  The comments are typical of what happens to busy, computer-savvy researchers - things happen in a second that take awhile to correct.

4)  On Ancestry Member Tree Hints and Images (7 December 2012):

*  bgwiehle commented:  "I just made some corrections that I think will be of interest to someone I've communicated with in the past and who has a public tree.  Corrections show up as MemberConnect messages within a day or two for those who have already attached or downloaded the record. However, it can take a while for corrections to show on the record itself and to be searchable.  How quickly does a corrected record appear as a 'shaky leaf'?"

My comment:  At least corrections show up in the MemberConnect message...if folks read and understand them.  I don't know how long it takes for a corrected record to appear as a "shaky leaf."  It takes several weeks for an index addition to appear in the record index.  If you've accepted or ignored the Hint, you may not get a new shaky leaf for that record.

*  Smadar Belkind Gerson commented:  "Thanks for the extensive review of the service. I've been on the fence about paying for the extra search option on MyHeritage. I've been a member for a long time and have a large tree (not any where as large as yours). Their search services used to be free but never worked on my Mac. I was very excited when they decided to expand their search options but was disappointed that there was going to be an additional charge. Since I've been doing my research for so long in other sites, I was glad to be able to see the matches MyHeritage provides. I have to say, in my experience they were mostly unhelpful. Most of the Find-A-Grave matches were ones I've created myself or have already located. The Social Security death records are available on Ancestry. The other vital statistics are fairly limited and it didn't find anything new for me. With the exception of the Newspaper articles, which looks like it does a better job matching than ancestry, everything the system identified, I already had. I therefore decided not to spend the additional money. It's true that it's a lot cheaper than Ancestry, but it's a much smaller database. I find that I'm constantly finding new things on Ancestry. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE MYHERITAGE. I just feel that they should have comped their members especially Premium ones like me, with the search option for a while if they wanted me to get hooked."

My comments:  Thanks for the excellent summary of your experiences, which pretty much mirror mine.  Since I had a WorldVitalRecords subscription, and a comped MyHeritage subscription, already, I was able to take advantage of the Record Match service, and I appreciate what it does.   I hope that MyHeritage adds more records to their collection - they still need many of the basic U.S. records like vital records, census, immigration, and military records.  They have some, but not to the level that Ancestry or FamilySearch have.

6)  Thank you to all of my readers for their interesting, helpful and sometimes humorous comments (I love those!). 

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

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