Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More on Find A Grave Memorials and My Family Tree

I wrote How Many Find A Grave Hints Do I Have on Ancestry? yesterday and had several pertinent questions in Comments which I will answer below:

1)  David B. Farstead asked:  "The Find A Grave memorial didn't have a photo of the headstone or a copy of the obituary. Are memorials like these any more reliable than unsourced Family Trees on Ancestry? Is it a good idea to add this information to your tree?"

My response:  At a minimum, a memorial without a photo of the gravestone or an obituary transcription can provide a clue for further research.

The memorial for Alice E. Emery Pickford had a birth date and a death date on it, but the source of those dates is not explicitly known.  There could be cemetery records that the Find A Grave memorial creator had access to and extracted information from, or perhaps the creator saw the gravestone, extracted information from it, and added it to the Find A Grave memorial.

Then there are the Suggested Records which appear on the Ancestry record summary page:

The first one is the U.S. Social Security Death Index record for Alice Pickford, which had the same birth date and death date as the Find A Grave memorial.  The other Suggested Records are all for City Directory entries, and are not too helpful.

The other clue from the Find A Grave memorial is Alice's maiden surname - Emery.  A search for Alice Emery, born in 1919, on revealed U.S. census records in Leominster, Mass. for Alice Emery, daughter of Raymond and Margaret Emery, in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 enumerations.

In addition, I searched for an obituary on GenealogyBank, and found one for both Alice E. Pickford and J. Barry Pickford.  The obituary for Alice identified her as Mrs. Alice E. Emery Pickford age 89, and named her deceased husband, parents, son, granddaughter, brother and sister.

If this was one of my ancestral families, I would do more extensive searching in online resources and library or archive resources.  But Alice isn't in an ancestral family - she's a cousin's spouse who resided in the place my father grew up in.

I added all of the records above (except the City Directory records) to my profile for Alice E. Emery in RootsMagic and added a source citation for them to the events.  My hope is, of course, that a person searching for Alice on would find her in my Ancestry Member Tree, learn something about her and her ancestry, and perhaps contact me to share more information (or thank me for leading them to Alice's information).

So, I think a Find A Grave memorial page with or without a gravestone image is a record that may provide enough clues to find actual records for a person.  In that way, it is similar to an undocumented online family tree.  It may be correct, or not; the record search needs to be performed in order to support the assertions.  I use online family trees in the same way - I look for clues and then find records to document the person profile.

2)  Justin York asked:  "Do you mine all hints that are correct? I ignore hints for people that I don't want to research. I typically limit myself to my ancestors and their descendants. It's pretty rare for me to research the family of a cousin's spouse. If you don't limit the scope of your research then your tree will explode in size as you mine hints and generate many more hints than the number you processed."

My response:  I try to mine all of the Hints in a database or for a person, especially for someone who may be a distant cousin, and a potential sharer of family DNA.

I do try to limit myself to Hints that are actual records (e.g., census records, military records, probate records, etc.) or record derivatives (e.g., a vital records index, a Find A Grave memorial, etc).

My RootsMagic family tree contains all of my known ancestral families, and many of their descendants. I also have ancestral families for my wife's ancestry, and the ancestry of my sons-in-law - which is all of the ancestry of my grandchildren.  Then there are one-name studies for Seaver, Carringer, Auble, Vaux, Dill, Buck, and McKnew surnames where I'm collecting records and trying to link those persons into my ancestral families.  For the descendants of my ancestors, I am trying to limit myself to descendants of my 5th great-grandparents or later, because they are the ones most likely to show up in an autosomal DNA match.  All of that is in my big RootsMagic database, some of it connected together in a really big tree and some in smaller bushes or twigs that are not connected to the big tree.

It used to take a long time (it took months in, say, 2005 and before!) to do all of the above for a person in my tree like Alice - a cousin's spouse.  These days, with database subscriptions, Hints, Suggested Records and search engines, the search took just minutes, but the data and source entry took a bit longer.

I do ignore Hints that are not for my person of interest, and for databases that I don't consider to be records, such as other online trees and compilations of records (e.g., the American Genealogical-Biographical Index, Millennium File, Family Data Collection, etc.)

As you surmised, my RootsMagic family tree database has exploded in size to over 47,600 persons over 29 years, and I have over 37,000 Record Hints waiting to be reviewed on

I doubt that I will ever finish the Family Tree task, but I will leave a fairly well documented online family tree for my descendants, and other researchers, to discover and work with.  A genealogist's work is never done!

3)  Thank you to David and Justin for their questions!!  


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1 comment:

Marie Cooke Beckman said...

Dear Randy,

You mentioned that the City Directory Records for Alice weren't too helpful. Did they have info you already had or had you gotten pretty much all you wanted for someone who isn't in your direct line or a descendant of your direct line. I used to skip over City Directories but I've been working on finding out more about one of the persons who wrote my Grandmother for several years. I was trying to determine if she was kin or how my Grandmother knew her since the lady was from Akron Ohio and my Grandmother was born and raised in Tennessee(where she lived for a little over 102 yrs) I was able to find the lady from Ohio in census records but there were plenty of holes---Marriages, Death and Divorces. The Akron Summit Co OH library has many of their city directories online and I was able to get a much better timeline going on for everything that was happening with this family specifically for the time after 1940. Since Alice lived where your Father grew up I would look at the sections of the City Directory to see if there is a write-up about the town and the stats on the town. Sometimes you can find some very good information in that portion that will give you a better idea about life there..Now when a directory comes up in the suggested records of a direct line or a cousin I realize their value...something I didn't prior to working on that research project.