Thursday, August 25, 2011

Indirect Evidence to the Rescue . . .

. . . is the title of my article just published on

Most records genealogists deal with were not created to answer our questions. Vital records often come close, but common names can be a problem, and as we move back through the years such records become scarce or were never created in the first place. In general, the more distant the ancestors, the less likely we are to find direct answers to our questions about them, and the more we will need to think in terms of indirect evidence -- piling up clues from which we can prove a conclusion, or at least a probability.
This will also be the topic of one of my two talks at NGS 2012 in Cincinnati.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New on-line resources

On the Porter County, Indiana, Genweb:

917 records from the Indiana Adjutant General's List of Porter County Civil War Soldiers

11,364 individuals residing in Lake Porter counties in 1916, with their addresses and credit ratings

From the St. Clair County, Illinois, mailing list:

Diane Walsh calls attention to the free online 1926 volumes by Isaac D. Rawlings in the Internet Archive, The Rise and Fall of Disease in Illinois, volume 1 and volume 2. Much of the book culls old medical journals for reports of diseases in specific places and times. With some effort it may be possible to retrieve copies of the original articles themselves for an unusual close-up on your location of interest. He covers the whole state and some adjacent counties as well if they happened to be written up by an Illinois physician.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Free learning opportunities

Two of my important genealogy learning experiences are not part of any larger institution and don't do a lot of promotion, so I thought I should mention them here in case any studious and ambitious genealogists aren't aware of them. Of course your mileage may vary, and they may not suit your style or your needs at any given moment.

ProGen Study Group, 18-month mentored groups reading, discussing, and practicing skills described in the book Professional Genealogy, ed. Elizabeth Shown Mills

Transitional Genealogists Forum, "a mailing list for anyone who is on the road to becoming a professional Genealogist. It is a place to share experiences, problems, obstacles, downfalls and triumphs."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What You Can Do When Ancestry Messes Up

We all use and value its services in making images of original records widely available. But even a profitable publicly-traded corporation makes mistakes.

My friend and colleague Michael Hait, CG, has started the Ancestry Errors Wiki as a place where genealogists can share their reports of cases where has made errors of imaging, organization, or programming in placing records on line -- such as placing part of a census in the wrong jurisdiction. Simple errors of indexing or transcribing individual names can be dealt with on Ancestry's site, but these deeper errors are more difficult to detect, publicize, and correct. (This wiki can help with the first two items, anyway!)

In January 2009 I discovered one such error in the 1865 Illinois state census, in which townships in Kane county were mislabeled and one entire page image omitted. I wrote it up for the Illinois state quarterly. That was two years ago and it has yet to be corrected. In this case there are workarounds and Family History Library microfilms for comparison; in other cases there may be alternative on-line providers with better quality control. But first researchers need to help one another by making the problems known when they do occur.

So far the wiki has notations of errors in records involving seven states: Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Texas. May you find few errors -- but send them in promptly when you do!

(I don't pay much attention to anniversaries, but if you're counting, this is post no. 801.)