Friday, March 8, 2013

Follow-Up Friday - Helpful/Interesting Reader Comments

It's Friday morning, so time to recount the helpful and interesting reader comments from the past week, and respond to them if the mood strikes me.

1)  On Surname Saturday - COLE (England > Massachusetts) (2 March 2013):

*  Shirley said:  "I am wondering how the surname cloud was created. Is this something you designed, or did you use a software program?"

My response:  A "Surname cloud" or any other type of cloud can be created using  I put multiple copies of my surnames into the list, according to how many generations I had, in order to get the relative word sizes.

2)  On My 23andMe DNA Test Results - Post 1 (5 March 2013):

*  Dan Stone asked:  "Have you compared the raw numbers, where available, between the various tests you've taken to see how they compare? I'd be interested to know how the Y-DNA test numbers of one company match up with another company's numbers. Ideally, they will be the same for the same markers, and only the refinement of the matching process is different and/or has changed over time. If the raw numbers are different, I'd be extremely curious as to an explanation for why they are different."

My response:  I have not done that yet, because I don't see the "raw numbers" yet.  I got exactly the same Y-DNA results from the two earlier tests for the common markers used.  I got somewhat different results for the two previous autosomal tests.  This 23andMe test covers all three results - Y-chromosome, mitochondrial, and autosomal, and I'll try to compare them with the others when I figure out how to do that.  I'm hoping that CeCe Moore's seminar at CVGS on 30 March will help me with this.

*  Kassie mused:  "I've thought about this, but it seems like the results fed back are sooo complex. Did you find the report "user friendly" or did you do lots of pre-search before finally ordering the test? I think $99 sounds pretty cheap, but I don't want to waste $$ on something I won't understand...thoughts?"

My response:  The results are very complex, but I thought that 23andMe did a pretty good job in displaying them, and explaining them.  With AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder autosomal tests, they focused on finding matches to my results in addition to the ethnic percentages (which for me are pretty bland!).  FTDNA also showed the chromosome segments that matched selected other persons.  I don't have the result matches from the 23andme test yet, and when I do, I will report on it.

Considering that the prices just for the autosomal test on Ancestry and FTDNA are equal to or higher than the $99 test on 23andme (which provides health characteristics, plus autosomal, mitochondrial, and Y-chromosome DNA results if males take the test), the 23andme test is more extensive and is an excellent "deal."  It's a one-stop test and includes your health characteristics.

If you study the information on the websites of the test companies, you will understand what they do, and what the test results mean.  You don't have to understand the deep science of how they do it - I don't - but with a little study you can understand your test results.

3)  On FamilySearch Family Tree Open for Everyone (5 March 2013):

*  Geolover noted:  "Randy, glad you posted some helpful resources for those who would try out the Family Search Family Tree. There's one more that could be useful, a message board monitored by some experienced users, as well as by design, engineering and managerial staff who would like to be aware of any bugs or unusual glitches:"

My response:  Thanks - I will add that to my post.

4)  On (Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Post 246: A Wedding Day Photo (6 March 2013):

*  John D. Tew asked:  "I have to ask though since you have the full original photo -- is your father standing on the train of your mother's wedding gown? It looks like it in the photo."

My response:  Good catch.  I saw it too, when I magnified the image to see the photographer's imprint.  I think that he is stepping on the train, perhaps to hold it down.  I sure hope that he stepped off of it before they went on to the reception.

5)  On Sorting Out Primary and Secondary Information (6 March 2013):

Thank you all for your helpful and challenging responses in Comments.  Many of us are trying to "figure all of this out" still, including myself. 

There are a number of very useful comments on this post and I may deal with them in a separate blog post.  I do agree with Angela Craft that the birth certificate is an abstract from the Original Source and could be considered a Derivative.  But the discussion was about Information rather than Source quality.

I agree that I definitely don't know who provided the information to the town clerk.  I believe, but don't know for sure, that someone in the family, and I think usually the father of the child, went down to the town clerk's office in New England and reported the birth.  It might be another relative - a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, etc. I doubt that many records of this type report the actual informant (i.e., "Benjamin Seaver came to my office and said his wife had a baby we named Isaac."). This town record is the very FIRST record of the birth.  It may be Primary or Secondary, but to me, it is BETTER, closer to PRIMARY than SECONDARY, information than the other records, which are clearly derived from it.  

I had not considered an UNKNOWN classification for Information as Jenny suggested.  It's not in the BCG definitions.  We may want an UNSURE or UNKNOWN classification for Information...

Bob McAlister's comment resonated with me:  "At least part of the difficulty you mention comes from the fact that the first two dimensions are not independent.  Once you decide that the source is derivative, then the information can not be primary. If an eye-witness to the event made a copy of the original source, it would itself be an original source with the same provenance as the first (save for the lapse of time).  It is sleight of hand to claim that we have analysed each document on three distinct criteria when two of them are inextricably intertwined."

That simplifies the Information categorizing a bit.

I do believe that this particular birth record for Isaac Seaver is not a "copy" from another record book, and that Westminster, Massachusetts used this "family group" method to record births and deaths throughout its early history.  To me, it is the Original Source.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Yvette Hoitink said...

Civil registration birth records in the Netherlands not only list the informant, they went a lot further: "Derk Jan Hoitink came to me and presented me with his male child called Hendrik". No kidding, the actual child had to be presented to the clerk to register the birth. Doesn't get any more primary than that. The requirement to present the child was not so good for infant mortality rates though, especially since you had to present the child within 3 days of the birth or face a large fine, so that requirement was dropped after a couple of years. To this day, you're still required to register the birth within three days, but at least you can leave the baby at home now if you have a declaration by the doctor or midwife.

Dandelion said...

Here’s an interesting case. A baby girl was born March 3, 1861 in Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. Her father registered her with the name “Mary Milne” (his mother’s name) on March 9, 1861. He then disappeared. Her mother went in on March 22 and registered her with the same birth date and the name “Alison Naismith McIntyre Milne” (her name) Both records were signed by the respective parent and witnessed by the registrar. Seeing the two records I assumed they were twins but wondered why one had been named “Mary” since there already was a child by that name in the family. On the 1861 census, taken about a month later, there was only one baby girl. (The three older children were the children of her deceased husband. The census taker apparently had a hard time dealing with two last names since the two boys were listed as “unknown” although they would have been old enough to know their names.) Another descendent of the family who had seen the divorce records said that he believed that there was only one child, registered twice. The birth records usually state if there were twins.
How would one describe the veracity of the two birth records.

Mary Ellen Aube said...

I thought that the physician recorded the births in New England. I know that my mother was born in 1896 and the physician recorded her birth.

Michael Hait said...

Just to clarify: "Unknown" is not a third category for information. Information is either primary or secondary, period. We just can't always identify whether it is one or the other due to lack of necessary data to make that determination. In these cases, it is better to abstain.

Michael Hait said...

A derivative source can contain primary information. There is no bearing of one on the other.