Online family trees can be a blessing or a curse in your family research.
They are a curse if you…
Dismiss them as having no value to your research
Take them as “gospel” truth without question
Use their information without confirming its accuracy
Copy them to just fill in the blanks on your family tree
They are a blessing if you…
Use them as clues providing direction to your research
Ask, “Can I confirm or disprove these statements?”
Use them as affirmation when they agree with your completed research.
Connect you with other researchers interested in your family line
When I began researching my Byrd family, I met a 1st cousin I didn’t know. Harold invited me to view his family tree on Ancestry and it has served as an invaluable guide in my Byrd family research. Thanks Harold Byrd! Some of the most exhaustive work done on our Byrd family has been done by Randall Byrd. Much of his work was done in the difficult old fashion ways of the past. Thanks Randall!
How you use family trees built by others is entirely up to you. Keep this in mind. Your decision will be a blessing or a curse to your family research.
Legacy Family Tree offers free weibnars for non-subscribers on an almost weekly basis. There are presently two FREE seminars for your viewing. Check these out. Simply click the view button.
American Revolution Genealogy (Until the 15th)
The War of Independence changed history; our history; our families’ history. It’s a story about which we want to know more. Did my ancestor help? …even a little? There’s much to be learned about our ancestors’ roles in this moment in history. In this class, we’ll discover where to start, what the best resources are, and how to tackle the research. So, let’s go in search of answers using the soldiers’ service and pension records and unit narratives.
Hookers, Crooks, and Kooks – Aunt Merle Didn’t Run a Boarding House (Until the 17th)
Each of us wants to ignore that scalawag, that counterfeiter, or that madam in our family, but the black sheep may prove the most interesting of all. Learn to examine clues in unusual and also common sources. Learn how they lead to locating more records.
The internet enables incredible research and collaboration with others on your family’s history. It’s also fraught with potential traps and misdirection. A research mistake by you or others is multiplied. In the past, a person took a blank family tree chart or family group sheet and filled in the blanks on paper as they researched their family. It was a simple way to keep track of the “facts” they uncovered in their research. If they were wrong, if they made a mistake in their research, very few people knew or were affected. That’s not true today.
Family history is not a competition. We may use games to teach our family history but the research we do is not a game. When we fail in our due diligence and rush to fill in as many blanks as possible on an online family tree, we confuse and potentially misdirect others. We may leave behind lies rather than facts for our families to follow.
This is NOT a call to abandon or stop posting online family trees. I would never do that. The collaborative aspect is much too valuable. I’m appealing for accuracy in our research before we post and when we’re not sure about our conclusion to be very clear about our uncertainty. And there lies the problem with family trees. They are made up of names, dates and lines connecting those names and dates. They create blanks for us to fill in and discourage uncertainty. Family trees are not theses or dissertations. They’re a simplified expression of that kind of research and thought.
It’s OK to leave blanks on family trees when we’re not reasonably certain what should go in those blanks. It’s OK for others to question what we have put in our blanks. We should welcome this. It’s OK to change the information in our blanks. It’s OK to use “abt” or “ca” or “unknown”. Doing so may be better for you and others.
Here’s the bottom line. You have to decide. As the genealogist/family historian are you going to focus on finding the facts or filling in the blanks as fast as you can? Will it be a competition or competent research? If it’s competent research, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks with confidence.
I wrote in an earlier post about the importance of skepticism when doing genealogy/family history research. Here’s a good example. This is a death certificate I found yesterday while doing some research for a new cousin. What do you see recorded as the full name for the subject of this official death certificate? How would you transcribe this name?
The indexer for this collection saw this name as “Edith Van Connie Drury”. What did you see? Here’s what the indexer should have seen and recorded: Edith Victoria Drury.
Be cautious and tenacious when doing your research. A future fellow researcher will rise up and call you “blessed!”
The sun is shining again. The birds are singing. Hope springs eternal. Baseball is back!
Grown men are playing a child’s game and loving ever minute on the field. Baseball is the greatest game and sport ever contrived. It’s a “thinking man’s game” and you have to be mentored into the intricacies of it, but when you are, when you know, it’s magical.
Our family enjoys baseball. No, let’s be honest. Our family loves baseball! Some of the girls love it more than the boys. (And know it better too) The opening of Major League baseball is bigger than New Years and the Fourth of July rolled together. It’s cause for celebration and we celebrate!
In the interest of family’s history, I thought I would take a few minutes to trace the origins of this fanaticism. It’s time I take responsibility for the “mess” I’ve made and explain the origin of the disease.
I honestly can’t remember which came first. Was it watching Saturday baseball with my big brother on Television? Or, was it looking at the baseball cards he got out of bubble gum packages? Or, was it watching him play little league baseball while I chased foul balls to be traded for free snow cones at the concession stand? Hey, come to think of it, I’ve found a new scapegoat for my addiction. David did it!
By the time I was 7 I was fully hooked. I listened to the St. Louis Cardinals on clear channel KMOX radio. Only they were not always so clear in North Texas. In 1965 the Houston Colt 45s changed their name to the Astros and moved into the Astrodome. They also signed a new radio contract that brought them to KDNT in Denton, Texas. I was in business!
Now I could hear the entire game without interruptions. Except for my mom, who was telling me to go to bed. That’s when my first transistor radio became my favorite all-time gift. The little beauty had an ear piece. I could plug it in, turn on the Astros’ game and appear to be sleeping. I really was in business! (Don’t tell my mom.)
And so the disease was well established at an early age. The more I learned the game, the more I loved it. I even played the game for a few years and had wonderful coaches and teammates. But I must have been born to love the game because I was certainly not born to play it! And so I talked it, taught it, watched it, took my kids to it and exposed them all to this wonderful game of baseball. All of them caught the bug. Some are in remission but most are still as ill as their father and infecting their kids.
The Astros played their way into the World Series in 2005. It was their first and only time in their now 52 years they made it to the biggest of baseball stages. I had tickets to game 4 of the Series! But they were high up and a great distance from the field. I managed to trade them in for box seats for game 5! Only the game never happened. The Chicago White Sox swept the Astros in 4 games.
Hope springs eternal. The Astros are going to the World Series this year! (Ok, that’s a little too hopeful and I know the game a little too well to be that hopeful, but they will be more competitive and they will return to the baseball biggest stage soon.) They opened the season last night by beating last year’s Cy Young Award winner and the Cleveland Indians 2 – 0. Hey, this could be their year!
Good Monday morning! Here’s your Backtracking the Common tip for today. Enjoy!
All good genealogists are skeptics. They have to be. Grandpa Jones “improved” the family’s history. Aunt Sally miss-remembered. Aunt Polly covered up the date of a child’s birth to better match a wedding date. Paw Paw embellished his military record. And the beat goes on. The wrong information was recorded on records at the local, state and/or federal levels. Names are misspelled. Handwritten copies are inaccurate copies. Census takers wrote it down wrong. Informants on census records told it wrong. Informants on death records didn’t know the correct answer. How could they possibly provide it? And the beat goes on…
“I read it on the internet. It must be true.” That’s supposed to be a joke and everyone’s supposed to already know it. But I see many new (and some not so new) would be genealogists/family historians who don’t seem to get it. It’s as if we want to control the narrative of our family’s history instead of uncovering, recording, and reporting it.
To be a good genealogist we have to be truth seekers. We know we’re not bound by the past, so we’re not afraid to reveal it. We may not want to repeat it, but we look for tactful, compassionate ways to tell the true family story. We have to decide. Do we want to be myth tellers or historians?
Good genealogists are skeptics.
• Collect all of the family stories you can. Be respectful of family members but be skeptical. The facts have to support the stories or they’re only stories.
• In your skepticism, remember, some stories will prove to be completely accurate and almost all stories have clues in them you need to follow.
• Don’t be afraid of conflicting information. Determine to know the truth.
• Use multiple sources and work toward a preponderance of evidence.
• Once you have settled the issue in your own mind, be prepared to change it. Be open to reconsidering old and new facts.
• Don’t “break up” with others over a difference of opinion.
If you have family or research family history in North Texas, this blog post is for you. These resources will make your research more productive.
Dee and I recently used the genealogical sectionsof three North Texas libraries. One was a surprise, one was status quo in our experience and the third one was a gem. Here’s our report with some basic information on these resources plus tips for researching any library in any place.
We were in McWright Cemetery in Hunt County, Texas looking for the final resting ground of my 2 x great grandfather William Henry Price. Three of us were looking (including my sister Debbie from Collin County), but we could not find him. It’s a large cemetery and has been in use since the 1800’s. It’s possible his burial marker had been destroyed by time. I wondered and then hoped someone had recorded the graves earlier before there was a Find A Grave. That’s when a car pulled into the cemetery occupied by two elderly sisters. They had lived near the cemetery all their lives, but they could not recall the Price name. They did remember there was a book in the Greenville library with a listing of all of the graves in the cemetery at the time the book was published and suggested we look in that book for William Henry Price.
I was surprised by such a large, modern facility in such a small place. I was also surprised by the generous genealogical holdings secluded in their own room. The library has a public break area with vending machines, very nice for long hours of research. The staff on duty this day did not seem particularly knowledgeable in the field of genealogy and appeared to be pre-occupied with preparing to watch basketball on the computer. So, be prepared. You may have to provide for yourself. (see below). We found the book our good Samaritans told us about but did not find William Henry in it. We did however find several other useful facts about other family members. If you’re researching family in Hunt County, you’ll want to visit this facility.
The Status Quo
We were looking for old Collin County, Texas tax records. When I say old, I mean from the beginning of the county (1846). I was looking for evidence my 2 x great grand father Samuel Byrd made it to Texas before his death. I was pleased to discover the microfilm of the earliest tax records was available in McKinney near my family’s residences. It would not be necessary (as we had been told by the county officials) to travel to the library at the University of Texas at Arlington. (BTW, I found no evidence that day or any other day that Samuel Byrd made it alive to Texas in spite of what someone posted on the Find A Grave website.)
Hours: Mon.-Thu: 10 am – 9 pm, Fri.-Sat.: 10 am – 6 pm, Sun.: 1 – 5 pm
This library is modern and spacious, pleasing to the eye. The genealogical section is good on Collin County and fair on the surrounding counties. There is, as there is in most Texas libraries’ genealogical sections, as smattering of books on the states from which Texas settlers came. The second floor space is shared by an open computer room where it appears mostly young adults are checking Facebook and playing computer games. There has been an attempt to tuck the research tables back into a corner away from distractions. This provides a place for others to talk and text away from the crowd. The staff from which we requested assistance did not come across as knowledgeable of their genealogical holdings or how to operate the microfilm viewers. It was a fairly standard experience and thus the term “status quo”.
And then you find that special place with special people. I’m talking about the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas. I speak specifically of the basement in this library and the people who work there. The basement? Sounds rather dark and damp. I assure you it’s neither.
The genealogical section of the Haggard Library is in the basement. It’s large, comfortable, well stocked and well staffed. I could spend a long time here and I did spend most of a day and part of another. You need to plan your visit or you’ll be going from “one shiny thing” to another. There’s plenty here for the history hound and the family historian. And then there’s the staff. They are knowledgeable, courteous and considerate. Considerate? Yes. When I’m researching I generally have goals and don’t have time for chit chat. I need the staff to be knowledgeable, but share with me only the knowledge I request. Otherwise I need them to simply give me space and solitude. I’ve just described the five staff I met working the basement in my two days at the Haggard Library. And the gem of this gem was Genealogical Librarian Cheryl Smith. She is a wonderful and respectful resource for family historians and genealogist researching North Texas families. She is especially knowledgeable of Collin County. Thanks Cheryl! I smile when I think of the staff — and that basement!
My one complaint about Haggard is the lack of a public break area. Researchers may be in the stacks for long hours and need regular breaks to stay nourished and hydrated. This would be a nice addition to the library and provide additional income.
Preparing to research a library:
Have research goals. What do you hope to find or accomplish with you visit?
Know before you go. What is available? What is allowed? What are the hours? Where is it located?
Search the online catalog. Have your titles and call numbers ready. What questions do you have for the staff? Prepare your research log in advance.
Don’t forget your equipment. Notebooks, computers, cameras (know their policy) and money for the copier
When you’re there:
Be courteous to the staff and considerate of others. Allow them to do their work. Don’t distract others around you.
Follow the library’s protocols. Don’t reshelf the books. Place your used materials on the carts if they’re provided. Know how to use the equipment and properly use it. Ask for help if you don’t.
David Lee Roberts did something many of us talk about – but most of us never get around to doing. He wrote his life story. He put it all down in a book. And, he has a PDF version on disc. (Available for my children)
David is a decorated Navy veteran. He served 27 years active duty and 3 years reserve for a total of 30 years service to the United States. He has now “retired” to serve as a patrol officer at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. He and his wife Cheryl live in Keller, Texas and have three grown children with growing families of their own. Daughter Amy and her husband Matt serve overseas in Dubai. Son Bryan, now retired from the Air Force, is launching a second “tour of duty” in the ministry. He and his wife Lori are presently in seminary in the St. Louis area. Son Matthew also serves as a DFW patrol officer. He, his wife Mandy and their children live in Keller, Texas. David and Cheryl’s children and their children’s children will enjoy this book for generations to come. It will be a family treasure.
David’s my older brother of whom I am rightfully proud. God has been good to both of us and given us wives “way above our pay grades”. I remember wondering when David went off to basic training in 1971 (Uncle Sam would finish raising him) what would happen to him. He seemed so lost and adrift on life’s sea. Well, God and Cheryl are what happened to him and I know for a fact he’s grateful. He writes about it in his book!
David’s first duty station out of air traffic control school was the Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas. My dad and I visited him there on my 16th birthday. I enjoyed watching him work and hone his tower skills. It wasn’t my first time in a control tower. Our uncle Ralph Reed retired from the FAA. He used to allow us in the control towers when we were just little squirts. Watching David work in the same environment, I began to think of him as a “traffic cop” for pilots. Much later in his career as Senior Chief on base at Meridian Air Station in Mississippi, he would serve as the traffic judge for the entire base. I tell him now he’s just a cop.
The book is large. 270 8 ½ x 11 pages. Lots of pictures. A good look and a good read. A PDF version is available.
Thanks David for the treasure you have given our family.
You’ll probably be a sucker for the hobby (obsession) of genealogy. If you don’t want to be trapped, back away. Leave now and don’t ever look back!
Genealogy is like filling in the blanks I didn’t know I had.
I wish I could remember who said that. I would love to give them credit.
There are many reasons we enjoy genealogy and family history. Each family historian or would be genealogist will have their own explanation or perhaps not be able to explain it at all. I recently came across one person’s take on genealogy and I wanted to share it with you.
Kris Williams has loved history since her childhood. She “blames” her father. She was a sucker for genealogy and was hooked by a school class assignment when she was 11 years old. Her love for family history and background in research helped her land a job as the historical researcher for Syfy’s Ghost Hunters. She’s also served as a contributor to Ancestry.com for over a year. You can follow Kris and gain from her knowledge at The Key to You Tree. The link is in our blog favorites list to the right.
I’ve asked Kim’s permission to link to a recent blog post she wrote on the “why” of genealogy. I like her “take”. Check it out. Genealogy: What’s the Point? Thanks Kris!