Friday, May 31, 2013

Rebuilding the Jaynes family with no direct evidence

Those hoping to qualify for Certified Genealogist status from the Board for the Certification of Genealogists can submit a proof argument that involves conflicting evidence, OR a proof argument that involves only indirect evidence. If you're contemplating the latter route, Mara Fein's article in the March 2013 National Genealogical Society Quarterly provides a nifty example. The keystone is an 1851 Washington County, Ohio, deed -- but in order to make the case Fein had to amass many hints in a variety of records (never an explicit statement) that the five grantors and the grantee were siblings, children of Henry and Catherine Jaynes. (One piece of evidence: the grantee paid $1 for the land.)

As someone who went through the portfolio process twice, I'm not fond of this particular route to certification, because it puts the applicant in a Catch-22: if she should find that the family can be proved with direct evidence, then she's back to square one. For an article, however, that drawback does not apply. Fein's article is also noteworthy in that there are almost no pieces of contrary evidence.

To put it another way, this article is almost the perfect opposite to the idea most of us brought to genealogy as beginners -- that the only way to prove a relationship is to find a records that SAYS what the relationship was. Fein made her case without any such records.

Midwestern researchers will note that the case spreads from Wood County, (West) Virginia, to Washington County, Ohio (right across the Ohio River); Jefferson, Daviess, and Knox counties, Indiana; and Linn County, Missouri. These counties trace what sure looks like a river-based migration path, but it's the aggregate power and logic of painstakingly gathered indirect evidence that carries all before it in this article.

Mara Fein, "Who Was the Father of Henry Norton Jaynes of Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Virginia?," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 101 (March 2013): 35-47.

Harold Henderson, "Rebuilding the Jaynes family with no direct evidence," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 31 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Good news for those with medical ancestors in Indiana

Researchers can find information on more than 27,000 medical people with some Indiana connection at the Indiana University School of Medicine Ruth Lilly Library Historical Databases.

I can't judge completeness (which in any case is not claimed), but the list includes doctors who in my mind are associated with other states, so don't assume that your people aren't here. The database appears to be maintained, with changes as recently as April.

There are actually two databases but they can be searched together. The search interface reaches every word, not just names, but otherwise doesn't seem too flexible -- and good luck if you're looking for a surname that is also a common word! (My workaround: since all the results come out in a long single list, you can do the search and then do a control-F search on the name with an initial capital and check "match case.") An extra benefit here is that a search of the database will pick up names of individuals who were not themselves doctors or midwives, but who are mentioned in their biographies, obituaries, or letters.

My search for "Everts" (a big surname in 19th-century La Porte County) produced 17 interesting results and lots of leads to follow about the whole family. Here is where the individual researcher's skill will be tried. Sourcing is not clear, even when large blocks of text are quoted. And the supposed drop-down list of "sources" is just a list of individual words as they appear in the text. Occasionally what appear to be source citations, or scraps thereof, do appear in association with text.

The compiler writes quite properly, "We offer these databases as guides to further research in the history of Indiana physicians and Civil War surgeons." But it is not always easy to tell where a given fact or quotation came from. As a result, beginning genealogists may give up and cite this database as their source, rather than keep on looking for the original record, book, or article. Any citation of course is better than none, but this would be poor research procedure except as a stopgap aide-memoire. Visit this site often, but be prepared to do more work afterwards.

Harold Henderson, "Good news for those with medical ancestors in Indiana," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 29 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

Monday, May 27, 2013

A holiday gift to New York researchers...

. . . from Manhattan Past to us, "links to Google digitized editions of the Laws of New York from 1638 through 1922."

The need is plain to those of us seeking information on what the laws said when in the Empire State, although I didn't understand it as well as the author does: "There is inconsistency among catalogers when entering these titles into Google’s database, as well as errors introduced as Google converts title information from image to text."

And if you need to know, the link to the 1825 session laws also includes 1826.

"Laws of the State of New York," Manhattan Past, : accessed 26 May 2013.

Harold Henderson, "A holiday gift to New York researchers...," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 27 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, May 24, 2013

A 1948 snapshot of the Gulf Coast shoreline

Visiting a used-book store in Freeport, Maine, I purchased an intriguing mid-20th-century source for a dollar -- a detailed mile-by-mile survey of the Gulf Coast for navigators: United States Coast Pilot: Gulf Coast, Key West to Rio Grande (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1949), third edition. So far I have not seen it on line. According to the 2 April 1949 preface, the book "includes the results of a special field examination made in 1948." Among these results:

"Salerno [Florida], a small town at the head of Manatee Pocket, has a vegetable-packing plant, an asphalt plant, a shark factory, and is headquarters for a fishing fleet. . . . Gasoline, Diesel oil, fresh water, ice, and facilities for overnight dockage or seasonal storage are available at the yard. Groceries are obtainable at nearby stores." {214}
"For a distance of 40 miles eastward of the entrance [to Mobile Bay], the shore, although low, is wooded and unbroken. . . . . Approaching Mobile, two tall buildings near the water front are first seen. The easterly building has a pointed finial. The westerly building was under construction in May 1948 and will be the higher of the two." {272}

"The wreck of the S. S. Leo Huff is in 39 feet of water 6.0 miles 161 [degrees] from the whistle buoy marking the entrance to Calcasieu Pass Channel [Louisiana]. The mast shows above the water. A lighted buoy marks the wreck." {362}

"Gulf [Texas] is a small town 35 miles northeastward of Pass Cavallo. The sulphur mines north of the town were not in operation in 1948. The twin stacks and buildings at the mines are prominent from offshore." {405}
For landlubbers like me, it's as if someone had carefully noted every few miles of any given highway for hundreds of miles, as of 65 years ago. I'll add this to my informal list of people who are deeply interested in very specific and very small places, along with genealogists, cartographers, and weather forecasters in tornado season.

The book is not completely indexed (the wrecks are not included, for instance). But since its value is mostly in the description of local town and bay features I'll probably add this to my free lookups in due time.

Harold Henderson, "A 1948 snapshot of the Gulf Coast shoreline," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What was $12 worth in 1814?

Anyone who studies the past soon comes up against the question of what the money amounts mentioned really meant. There are a number of sites that will "tell" us, but translating 200-year-old dollar values into today's economy is a very difficult and dubious task. I proposed some alternatives in a blog post last year and recommended the site Measuring Worth if you're determined to try to make such a statement.

But for several reasons it seemed more reasonable to compare apples to apples and describe purchases from back then that we might be able to grasp in in-kind terms today.

So when I wanted to know what it meant for a War of 1812 soldier to be paid about $12 for a couple months' service (two separate hitches), I went looking. I found that that in 1812 in near-frontier Cincinnati that amount of money would have bought

"more than 250 pounds of beef.1 In Jefferson County [New York] some 20 years later it would have bought about 100 pounds of maple sugar.2"
1 Thomas Senior Berry, Western Prices Before 1861: A Study of the Cincinnati Market (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1943), Table 23, “Median Annual Prices of Fourteen Leading Commodities in the Ohio Valley, 1786-1817,” pp. 568-69; digital images, Food Timeline ( : accessed 9 April 2013).
2 Henry H. Lyman, “Sugar-Making,” in Memories of the Old Homestead: A Story about Lorraine, NY (1900; reprint, Historical Association of South Jefferson, 1999), 23rd paragraph; digital image, Adams, New York History and Genealogy ( : accessed 9 April 2013).

These were the most intuitive comparisons I could find on short order. I was reminded that prices were very local back then, and how few things are directly comparable. (I hardly ever have occasion to buy that much beef or maple sugar.) If others have found useful sources for this purpose I'd love to hear about them.

Harold Henderson, "What was $12 worth in 1814?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Paul Graham's Georgia Courthouse Disasters

Courthouse disasters are the stuff of legend. My grandmother believed the records of all four of her grandparents had been destroyed; in fact, none were.

Paul K. Graham, CG, AG -- one of a handful who holds both genealogical credentials -- has documented 109 disasters, many causing record losses, in 75 of Georgia's 159 counties since the American Revolution. Each county's brief narrative has a source list attached, although specific statements of fact are not directly documented. (To put it technically, he has provided direct evidence of negative evidence!) Two counties have claimed disasters for which there is zero contemporary evidence (Emanuel and Polk), whereas two others have massive record loss with no documentation of how it happened (Bryan and Union).

The book's value is enhanced by maps showing the areas affected beyond the named county. Although 1864 was the worst year for Georgia courthouses, overall 95 of the 109 disasters came from things like arsonists and faulty heating equipment, not the Civil War.

To a researcher who rarely does Georgia, this looks like an enviable resource. Graham prudently did not attempt to record exactly which records had been lost in each county (indeed, in multiple-disaster counties, later fires obliterated evidence of the damage done by earlier ones). Graham says he has given up an ambitious scheme to produce similar books for the other states. Perhaps this handsome little book will inspire imitators.

Unfortunately disasters come in other flavors. Those of us following the ongoing saga of the Georgia Archives' near-death experience, or the Indiana State Archives' chronic neglect, can only hope that some 22nd-century genealogist will not have to chronicle 21st-century record losses caused by underfunding (instead of war), mismanagement (instead of tornadoes), and ignorant politicians (instead of arsonists).

Paul K. Graham, Georgia Courthouse Disasters (Decatur GA: The Genealogy Company, 2013).

Harold Henderson, "Paul Graham's Georgia Courthouse Disasters," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 20 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Specific good news for Illinois and Indiana researchers

FamilySearch announced on the 16th increases in two online collections of great interest to those with Midwestern ancestors. But the official information about the collections is somewhat incomplete and inaccurate.

"Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959," is reported to be 82% complete, with material from all counties except Scott, Shelby, Spencer, Starke, Switzerland, Tipton, and Vermillion.

In fact, there are substantial numbers of indexed marriages in all 92 Indiana counties. All appear to offer images, but some were unavailable when I clicked them.

"Illinois, County Marriages, 1820-1934," is reported to include both index and images, 63% complete, with no names of counties covered (earlier iterations had named them).

I did not see any images. Counties with index entries are

Adams, Alexander,
Bond, Boone, Brown,
Champaign, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford,
DeWitt, Douglas,
Edgar, Edwards, Effingham,
Ford, Franklin,
Gallatin, Grundy,
Hancock, Henderson, Henry,
Jackson, Jefferson, Jo Daviess,
Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox,
Marion, Massac, McHenry, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie,
Randolph, Rock Island,
Warren, White, and Williamson.

Notably missing at this point are the big ones including Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, Peoria, and Winnebago. Where the two overlap, it would be interesting to compare the coverage of this new index to that of the Illinois State Archives' venerable "Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900" (also a volunteer project), but I haven't done that. If you do post such a thing on your blog, kindly add a comment with the link!

Harold Henderson, "Specific good news for Illinois and Indiana researchers," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 18 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

Cynthia Inez Thrall Klein from Illinois to Texas

The Utah Genealogical Association quarterly Crossroads has just published my account of my grandfather's second cousin Cynthia Inez (Thrall) Klein. The story spans three states so it is a good fit for Crossroads, which is aiming for a more national audience and recently began paying for articles. (Those with multi-state articles take note!) I like the layout and the professionalism of the staff.

The magazine is a benefit of UGA membership; since they also offer a member discount for their week-long Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in January, it's an investment worth considering.

A few other branches of this mostly New-England-to-the-Midwest Thrall family went to Texas. Someday I hope to get to them. For that matter, I know there is more information on Cynthia and her family in Wharton County, Texas, where they settled.

For those interested in procedure, this article is based on roughly the last third of my Kinship Determination Project submitted to BCG last year. Don't forget to publish those puppies once the judges have had their say!

Harold Henderson, "Cynthia Inez Thrall Klein (1867-1932): An Enterprising Illinois Woman in Texas, with Allied Families Reavis and Whyde," Crossroads 8, no. 2 (Spring 2013), 6-17.

Harold Henderson, "Cynthia Inez Thrall Klein from Illinois to Texas," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 17 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"I" and "we" in genealogy writing

This year's Ohio Genealogical Society conference in Cincinnati sparked some good discussions, including one that came out of Ohio Genealogy News editor Sunny McClellan Morton's Friday morning talk. Like many of us, she's trying to encourage new writers to take up the pen or word processor as the case may be.

I admit to being a bit surprised that there was anything to discuss. There are many kinds of good genealogical writing, and the first person can be effectively wielded in most of them.

. . . Except at the top of the pyramid. In the five most scholarly magazines -- NEHGR, NGSQ, NYGBR, TAG, and The Genealogist -- the first person singular or plural is out of bounds, I think reasonably so. The focus there should be on the methods, the records, and the people being researched -- not on the researcher's false trails and travails. Having journals like this is one of many factors that will make genealogy more respectable as an intellectual endeavor and not just a harmless obsession of geezers. Also, once you get the hang of it, leaving yourself out of the picture actually makes it easier to tell one story, without having to shift back and forth from the story of the past to the story of your attempt to reclaim the past. Scholarly accounts deliberately suppress process details because the logic of proof is often very different from the travelogue of discovery.

But this is not the only way to tell these stories, and it is not always even the best way. For one thing, up-and-coming researchers have a natural hunger for accounts of how it went. A research find can look very different in the heat of battle (or more likely in the courthouse basement) than it does in a polished article. And nothing prevents such accounts from being well-written and well-documented.

So, pretty much everywhere else -- in commercial popular magazines, in trade publications (APG Quarterly), and in quality mid-level publications (such as NGS Magazine, Ohio Genealogy News, and many state publications) -- I would expect good editors to be open to the possibility of using first person to tell a solid genealogical story. (I blogged about a couple here; Sunny has been publishing research travelogues under the heading "Genealogy Journeys" in OGN.)

Many people may find it more natural to write in the first person at first, and I'm in favor of any approach that will get more of us writing (as opposed to dying with file cabinets full of uncommunicated discoveries). But writing WELL in the first person is much harder than it looks, for at least three reasons:

(1) All storytelling and all writing is about selection, and when you write about your own experience you have to do all the selection. You know too much. (In an interview-based article, for instance, both the interviewee and the interviewer filter the direct experience, so that the result of the interview has already been winnowed down considerably from the raw experience, making it easier to craft a readable narrative out of it.) It can be hard to see the forest because you know so much about each individual tree -- but if you tell all, the reader will quit rather than figure it out.

(2) First person can tempt us into careless writing. As beginners we often rely too much on adjectives and adverbs, and on general ones at that. First-person may make it harder to realize that we are emoting vaguely, rather than painting a clear picture.

(3) First person poses a special technical problem in genealogy. We then have at least two separate narratives going: our own research chronology, AND the life we are researching. It takes considerable skill and experience to keep both stories on track, separate, and memorable.

These caveats aside, I think first person opens realms of possibility. Some of the most memorable genealogy or family history books I have ever read use it: Leonard Todd's Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave; Martha Hodes's The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century; and (in a somewhat different and slightly less documented vein) Ian Frazier's Family. I found them impossible to put down, and well worth rereading and learning from. It's true, these are world-class writers. Few if any of us can use the first-person tool as well as they do, but that is no reason to banish it altogether from our toolbox.

Harold Henderson, "'I' and 'we' in genealogy writing," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 15 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, May 13, 2013

You can have any lecture format as long as it lasts an hour

The NGS conference in Las Vegas was a big success from my viewpoint as speaker and participant, and I anticipate great things from the upcoming FGS conference 21-24 August in Fort Wayne (yes, I am on the publicity committee). But they both could be better, and within the past few months I have heard almost the same sentiment from two genealogy leaders, a veteran and a new one, who to my knowledge are not acquainted: stop relying exclusively on the one-hour lecture format!

Tina Lyons is vice-president of the Indiana Genealogical Society and publicity chair for the aforementioned FGS, where she will also be speaking. She'd like to see some 20-minute sessions, perhaps modeled on the TED talks. She notes that her on-line Coursera classes come in 5- to 15-minute segments. And she may work an interactive game into her one-hour FGS talk.

Last Wednesday at NGS, Melinde Lutz Byrne -- who is, among other things, Fellow and President of the American Society of Genealogists, director of the Genealogical Research Program at Boston University's Center for Professional Studies, and co-editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly -- said that her talk that day (on advocacy and privacy) would be her last one-hour presentation. She gave similar reasons, and urged more panel discussions and workshops, as well as "poster sessions" like one she found worked well at the New England conference and lasted no more than 20 minutes, with everybody standing.

Just as many professional-development programs grew up outside of the umbrella of the Association of Professional Genealogists when it was slow to adapt, the major national and regional conferences might find themselves playing catch-up if they don't consider a more diverse format. Just sayin'.

Harold Henderson, "You can have any lecture format as long as it lasts an hour," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 13 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Saturday, May 11, 2013

NGS Day 3 Friday May 10

For logistical reasons only, Friday was my last real day at the conference. Please refer to other bloggers for Saturday!

My day began about 6 am in the nearly deserted free internet area (no problem with too many connections) and segued into the invitational FamilySearch breakfast (assigned tables and assigned places at each), where we learned that they add about 1.7 million new records per day, are desperately in search of Italian-speaking volunteer indexers, and are exploring ways to adapt facial-recognition software to word recognition as a way of indexing handwritten documents.

Dawne Slater-Putt's 8 am talk, "Fail! When the Record Is Wrong," was a boon to note-takers in that she spoke clearly and not too fast. Her bouquet of original records giving direct but erroneous evidence was striking. Takeaway: "Know your ancestor as a person so as not to be blinded by incorrect evidence."

I spent the rest of the morning in a New York intensive. NYGBR co-editor Karen Mauer Green emphasized the difficulties researchers from record-rich areas like New England and the Midwest will find in New York, where some record types are missing, and each of the 62 counties was to some extent a law unto itself. "Clerks essentially did what they want . . . plan to start over with each new county." A substantial aid in this process, the New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer, is forthcoming later this year.

NYGBR co-editor Laura DeGrazia gave a more upbeat perspective on the same situation, showing some of the records finds there to be made, such as town clerks' Civil War registers that can include time and place of birth and parents' names. I concluded that New York is the mother of innovative research techniques. And I have to say that if you must leave home for days to hang out in a desert filled with casinos in order to learn about genealogy, there is just no better place to be than in the front row of the hall, hearing DeGrazia and trading thoughts and wisecracks with Kimberly Powell and Michael Hait.

Melinda Henningfield and I chatted with visitors to the APG table in the exhibit area during the lunch hour, and then I retreated to become ready for my 4 pm talk on a Chicago-to-Ohio case study. The evening saw a meeting of mentors in preparation for the early June debut of small discussion groups on Tom Jones's popular new book Mastering Genealogical Proof, being organized by Angela McGhie.

And I know just from syllabus browsing that I had to miss great talks by Debbie Parker Wayne on DNA and Elizabeth Shown Mills on discoveries in the details.

It's now five years since my first NGS conference and I haven't even come close to regretting attending one yet. Don't miss it when it comes within your travel area.

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day 3 Friday May 10," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, May 10, 2013

NGS Day 2 Thursday May 9

Sometimes you can't both attend a conference and blog about it! Yesterday was that sort of day. For me it started with an internet session in the foyer area where sponsors have provided free wi-fi (when not too crowded), followed by the ProGen Study Group breakfast, which shared members and the buffet table with the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy breakfast. ProGen groups (18 months of study per each) are well up in double digits now, far enough so that even our mega-organizer Angela McGhie can't always recall who is from which group any more!

At 8 am, Greg Hise, UNLV history professor with a seemingly endless knowledge of Los Angeles, spoke on the ways in which it was "born global" and multicultural. If you had a question, he had a book title -- several book titles -- and author. At 9:30 Mara Fein spoke about LA area records. When seeking vital records there, "Avoid the state level." Such requests can take 18 months to turn around, and sometimes never. Go to the counties, and make sure you know when they were created, and in which years the city and county of Los Angeles created separate records.

At 11 am, I introduced friend and colleague Kimberly Powell, who provided a wealth of information -- not to tell us which genealogy program to buy, but how most efficiently to find out for ourselves which one(s) would best suit our styles. I like that approach and I think the audience did; anyway she was besieged with questions afterward. One takeaway: when dealing with on-line reviews, "Ignore the groupies and the haters" -- those who publish brief one-star or five-star reviews -- and concentrate on the longer ones that explain in some detail what they loved or hated.

(By the way, introducing speakers is one low-stress way of starting to find out whether you would like to get into actual speaking at conferences. No creativity or long-lasting vocal cords are required. Join the Genealogy Speakers Guild and get in on the action. Often there are more speakers than there are available introducers.)

Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, entertained the big crowd at the BCG luncheon with improbable tales of ancestral idiocies as they have appeared in court records from colonial times to the 20th century. Sorry, I was too busy laughing to take notes.

I took lots of notes during Elizabeth Shown Mills's 2:30 talk: "Information Overload? Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management & Analysis." If you have ever collected a difficult ancestor's 20 census neighbors on each side and then wondered what to do with them, this is a talk you must hear. The audio should be a reasonable substitute if you just can't be there.

Finally, at 4 pm I introduced friend and colleague Jane Wilcox, who gave an unusually fast-paced and visual talk about what she found out about many of her female forebears -- a deft presentation that kept introduction and conclusion to an absolute minimum, and eschewed words on screen. Maybe I could learn something there!

The rest of the day was full of good discussion that went on into the night, and which I was not the last to leave. I know people who attend conferences simply for the purpose of joining in these meetings, formal and informal, and I can see why. These folks are worth spending time with, even if I have to come to a casino to do so.

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day 2 Thursday May 9," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 10 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, May 9, 2013

NGS Day 1 Wednesday May 8

Las Vegas is an improbable (and noisy) part of the universe. The day started with one of those serendipitous encounters that make conferences such fun -- a friend and I got on the elevator simultaneously around 6 am and we made a run for affordable edibles to help us last out the week.

Marian Smith told a great story of her quest for the origins of the 1931 Morton Allan steamship arrival directory. "Some projects take years," she said, "Be prepared to be surprised." We were. "When you see a piece that might fit but are not sure, you've got to pick it up."

Tom Jones was stellar in the 11 am slot on "Debunking Misleading Records." He described alphabetizing records (that were originally chronological) as a form of error, because it strips out contextual information that might be used to correct an error. And he advised us that using genealogy programs can cause us to miss a "huge piece of genealogical reasoning," the piece that takes place when you're writing out your proof. He even finished two minutes before time.

I'll let others comment on my APG luncheon talk on advocacy and how to think about it. (Shortest possile version: Don't overlook the regulation-writing process that inevitably follows legislation.) A version of it will be available for the new APG Quarterly editor, Christy Fillerup, to use as needed.

Melinde Lutz Byrne spoke on advocacy for record access. By accumulation of well-known facts, she showed that birth, marriage, and death records are not in fact private -- directly undercutting some lawmakers' arguments to try to make them otherwise. Meanwhile I hear that Kimberly Powell encouraged a lot of folks to use and learn Scrivener.

Lots of interesting conversation at the exhibit hall BCG table late in the day about how many certificants "overachieve," as in producing kinship determination projects 70 or more pages long. Don't be intimidated. Length is not a genealogical standard.

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day 1 Wednesday May 8," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, May 6, 2013

Objectors to war have descendants, too

Cindy Freed at the group blog In-Depth Genealogist calls attention to a Civil War database of Pennsylvanians whose religious convictions prevented them from accepting a draft to serve in the Union army. Her title ("Bet You've Never Researched This") may grate on those with lots of Quaker ancestors, or those from the German Brethren churches who took a similar stand. But her title does reflect an ambivalence in genealogy between honoring individual service and sacrifice in war, on one hand, and support of war in general, on the other. (An earlier post along these lines is here.)

Additional sources for more recent conscientious objectors can be found in National Archives Record Group 163, "Selective Service System (World War I), 1917-1939," and Record Group 147, "Records of the Selective Service System 1940-," and in various federal court records.

Cindy Freed, "Bet You've Never Researched This," The In-Depth Genealogist, posted 6 May 2012 ( : accessed 6 May 2012).

Harold Henderson, "Objectors to war have descendants, too," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 6 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Milton maintains his mystery

Last year I wrote all around the subject of Milton Reynolds, documented resident of Jefferson County, Indiana, in 1850, but not found since, in the Indiana Genealogist. Since the article won the Elaine Spires Smith writing award at the 2013 Indiana Genealogical Society conference last week, I get one more chance to pass on the message to anyone who might catch sight of a hint of him: HELP!

I called this article "the world's longest query" because a close look at the main Reynolds families in the county didn't find a definite place for him. Previous blog post here, or you can find the article in the members-only section of the IGS web site.

Harold Henderson, "Milton maintains his mystery," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 3 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

Harold Henderson, "The Mystery of Milton Reynolds in Jefferson County," Indiana Genealogist vol. 23, no. 4 (December 2012):5-32; : accessed 23 December 2012.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Finding parents and grandparents despite multiple missing records

The landscape of eighteenth-century Maryland is littered with tax, property, probate, and vital records that aren't there. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean. My friend and colleague Michael Hait has taken these genealogical lemons and made them into an astonishing amount of lemonade in a sixteen-page tour de force in the current National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

He starts with three records for Thomas Burgan, born in the 1740s. From there he distinguishes two men from two different localities, and goes on to identify both parents and all four grandparents for the man associated with "Dear Bit" and "Black River Hundred," even though direct evidence is sparse and the indirect evidence is constantly interrupted by the static of missing deeds, missing probates, missing tax records, and mislabeled records.

The basic principles are not complicated -- most notably, follow the land even when inadequately described -- but in this records environment the application of them is intricate. Separate arrays of indirect evidence support this Thomas's descent from Philip the father, Rebecca Green the mother, and them as a couple.

William Litchman recommends reading studies of this kind four times for best understanding. Anyone who claims to understand this article after only one or two readings is either a liar or a prodigy.

Michael Hait, "Parents for Thomas Burgan of Baltimore County, Maryland," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 101 (March 2013): 19-33.

Harold Henderson, "Finding parents and grandparents despite multiple missing records," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]