Monday, January 27, 2014

Poster sessions for a more interactive conference

What is done at conferences by many scientists, a few historians, and almost no genealogists?

It's the "poster session," a chance to talk with people rather than at them about your project. 

Why don't more genealogy conferences (or even institutes) take this up?

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski's photostream, : viewed 22 January 2014. Per Creative Commons.

Harold Henderson, "Poster sessions for a more interactive conference ," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 27 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, January 24, 2014

Civilian Conservation Corps info and pictures

The Indiana Historical Society has added 150 photographs to its collection, depicting Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Jackson, Jennings, Lawrence, and Orange counties 1934-1936. The photo here is from North Vernon camp no. 1514, where the men built structures in Muskatuck State Park.

The society's web site is not terribly transparent, but more materials are available with a site search, digital image search, or library catalog search.

Many more official records of the government jobs program are at the National Archives and Record Administration, Record Group 35, with two on-line films playable here.

:Photo credit: Indiana Historical Society, CCA Photo Album collection, "Kitchen Force"; digital image viewed 20 January 2014.

"New in Collections and Library," INPerspective, January/February 2014, p. 13.

Harold Henderson, "Civilian Conservation Corps info and pictures," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 January  2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The intimidated genealogist?

A fellow blogger recently introduced me to the idea that discussions of advanced genealogy might scare off beginners. The idea came as a surprise, but it sure made me think.

* I reflected on my experience as a one-day attendee at the 2006 National Genealogical Society conference in Chicago. I attended a talk and walked around the booths and asked some questions. But I just didn't process most of the stuff I didn't understand. I wasn't discouraged, but I didn't learn a whole lot either.

* Intimidation might be a factor when I think I know something (or how to do something) and it soon becomes clear that I really don't. Sometimes I choose to dive in and learn more. Often I choose to back off -- either to focus on other activities; or to save time, money, and exasperation; or both. (That was my lesson in do-it-yourself car repair!). We can't all be good at everything. But in order to make the decision we need to know that there is more to learn.

* In the course of events I do a lot of driving. I have no interest in professional driving of the NASCAR variety, and if I ran into one of their professional discussions it wouldn't intimidate me or make me quit driving.

* To take a humbler but topical example, shoveling snow. Here I was a very slow learner even though I was exposed to better. Our neighbor is an expert. But it took me a decade or more living in a snow belt to appreciate the value of a simple tool she used: a snow scoop rather than a snow shovel.

* Arguably a bigger problem may be that beginners aren't exposed enough to advanced material. I "did genealogy" for most of a decade before I realized there was anything more advanced. I think of the story Tom Jones tells in the introduction to Mastering Genealogical Proof, in which he almost quit genealogy -- not because he'd been intimidated, but because he had not been exposed to advanced work and believed that his family's brick walls were insurmountable.

[FYI: tomorrow is this blog's 6th birthday; according to Blogger, this is the 1306th post.]

Harold Henderson, "The intimidated genealogist?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, January 20, 2014

Is the story everything in genealogy?

Is it true that in genealogy the story is everything?

Yes -- in a way, up to a point.

I totally believe in stories, especially since they were at the core of my previous (journalistic) life. But loving and seeking family stories is not a good excuse to evade research and proof, or to disregard standards. Two thoughts:

(1) The story is not much good if it's attached to the wrong person or the wrong family. My grandfather thought that his maternal grandfather had watched and waited for a tax sale and bought a nice farm at a good price that way. I've never found any evidence that this happened (although I'm not done looking), but I have found evidence that his paternal great-grandfather did just that, probably more than once.

(2) Often hard-core research in property and probate and more obscure records can reveal stories no one remembers today. I found one while working on a case study for my BCG certification portfolio. I was struggling to trace a family headed by an agricultural laborer who owned no land. I thought they were in Marshall County, Indiana, and I worked all the records I could find and found only three traces there: a census entry, an entry in a book of chattel mortgages, and a brief court record. He had to borrow $90, and to secure the loan he put up "one dark brown medium sized horse, having small head and small ears, and supposed to be eight years old in the spring of 1881. Name of said horse is Frank." The court record came when he couldn't repay the loan and had to forfeit Frank, as well as a set of work harnesses and a wagon. (The story didn't contribute to the solving of that case, but it's burned into my memory even though I'm no relation to that family.)

Standards don't require anyone to suppress stories that are dubious or even proven false. Just be clear about what they are and are not. In fact it may be useful to preserve them. Sometimes a false story or a false piece of information conveys a nugget of truth either in the way it is told, or the kind of mistake it makes, or when it is correlated with documentary evidence. But that's a story for another day . . .

Harold Henderson, "Is the story everything in genealogy? ," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 20 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Additional Midwestern death records on line!

Joe Beine has added or updated online records for 14 Midwestern (and many other!) counties at his Genealogy Roots Blog:

Illinois:  DuPage and Lee

Indiana: Allen, Clark, Howard, Jefferson, Miami, and Tipton

Michigan: Calhoun, Chippewa, Kalamazoo, and Oakland

Ohio: Mahoning

Wisconsin: Waupaca and statewide

Harold Henderson, "Additional Midwestern death records on line!," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 7 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, January 6, 2014

Probing free public domain books for genealogy titles

Snowed in? Still got an internet connection? Tara Calishain's ever-vigilant ResearchBuzz alerted me to "25 sources of free public domain books."

I was curious how they compared, but doing a thorough comparison would exceed both my patience and my free time. So I searched each one using the rather unimaginative search term "Illinois genealogy" (not in quotes, and not correcting for each site's idiosyncratic arrangement of hits). You can compare the top 3 items I found in each. On most of the sites, these search terms produced nothing of interest; but the remaining half dozen are worth some additional effort in searching.

Note that there are overlaps, and Hathi Trust images are found on some of these sites, although it was not included in the list of 25. My top 3 hits there were: Hand-list of American genealogies in the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations; Ancestors of the Bingham family of Utah; The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Illinois : list of officers and members, together with a record of the service performed by their ancestors in the wars of the Colonies (1897).

Of course, you may find non-genealogy gems on any of these sites.

Not everything I found was free, and not everything was actually in the public domain (snippet views only). Of course, more imaginative or specific searches (surnames, places) may well unearth good results where my crude test didn't. Enjoy!

Project Gutenberg: [none]

Europeana: Genealogical Memoir of the Newcomb Family; Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland 1976.

Digital Public Library of America: Album of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois; Genealogy Osborne family; Genealogy of the Farmer, Cox, and Hopkins families of Fayette County, Illinois.

Internet Archive: "COMMITTEE ON Genealogy and Genealogical Publications, Illinois State Historical Society, Springfield, Ill., Sept. 12, 1908"; Ninety-Second Illinois Volunteers...1862-1865; Album of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois (1899).

Open Library: Genealogical records by DAR Moline, Mary Little Deere Chapter; A list of the genealogical works in the Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield (1914); Illinois Genealogical Research by George Schweitzer.

Feedbooks: [none under free; the following were the top results of books for sale] Ghosthunting Illinois; Genealogy of Nihilism; Genealogy QuickSteps.

Manybooks: [none]

World Public Library: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois; Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, vol. 11; A Guide to the Cultural Resources in Illinois (1988).

Google Book Search: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois (1896); Biographical and Genealogical Record of La Salle County (1900), vol. 2; Hendrickson genealogy, eight generations, England to Illinois before 1840 [snippet view only].

Books Should Be Free: [none]

The Literature Network: [no useful results]

Bartleby: [no results in nonfiction]

DailyLit: [none] 

Read Easily: [none]

LibriVox: [none]

Legamus: [none]

Open Culture: The Poetry of Abraham Lincoln.

Classic Literature Library: [unable to reach site 3 January 2014]

The Online Books Page: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois; Genealogy and family history of the Uphams; Genealogy of the descendants of Daniel Upham, Jr., of McHenry, Illinois.

Great Books and Classics: [no search function]

Classic Reader: [none]

Planet Publish: [none]

Classical Chinese Literature: [no search function]

Wolne Lectury (Polish): [none]

Projekti Lonnrot (Finnish and Swedish): [no discernible search function]

Harold Henderson, "Probing free public domain books for genealogy titles," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 6 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Have you climbed on board?

If your New Year's resolutions include getting more serious about genealogy, consider subscribing to the Board for the Certification of Genealogists' three-times-a-year publication On Board. At the link you can also view the table of contents for all back issues up to and including the January 2014 issue in which Judy G. Russell, AKA The Legal Genealogist, discusses where DNA fits into genealogical proof these days. (OK, just one quote that needs to be repeated on all social media at every opportunity: "DNA by itself cannot answer even the simplest genealogical question.") Arguably one of the best things about On Board is its brevity. Each article is concise and readable.

You don't have to be board-certified, you don't even have to want to be board-certified, in order to subscribe and benefit from this succinct publication. And if you aren't sure, flip over to the skillbuilding part of the website where you can read more than two dozen article from back issues, dating back to 1995, by highly qualified authors including Elizabeth Shown Mills, Kathleen W. Hinckley, Amy Johnson Crow, Thomas W. Jones, Helen F. M. Leary, and many more. My favorite, however, is by Anonymous, entitled "A Judge's Notes from an Application for Certified Genealogist," and it's a good antidote to the strange but widespread misconception that certification portfolios are evaluated on minute nitpicking details.

Judy G. Russell, "DNA and the Reasonably Exhaustive Search," On Board 20(1):1, January 2014.

Harold Henderson, "Have you climbed on board?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 3 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ten top genealogists in the best venue . . .

DNA, business, branding, writing, working for entertainment and corporate clients, and more: it's not too late to sign up at the early-bird rates for the Association of Professional Genealogists' biggest-ever Professional Management Conference, January 10-11 in downtown Salt Lake City, featuring D. Joshua Taylor, Judy G. Russell, J. Mark Lowe, and a supporting cast of seven (including me)!

APG membership is not required -- but if that is an option on your 2014 menu, this is a good place to meet folks and find out if it's for you. I understand there's a famous library nearby, too, and a famous institute the following week. See you there?

Harold Henderson, "Ten top genealogists in the best venue...," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 2 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Is there a finite amount of genealogical evidence?

Tony Proctor has a thoughtful post over at Parallax View, discussing the concept of "proof" and how it differs in science and in genealogy. I encourage you to read the whole thing as he has a lot to say. Since thoughtful theoretical discussions are scarce in genealogy, I thought I'd add three thoughts.

(1) I'm surprised that neither the post nor the comments allude to the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) or the recent book that explains it most thoroughly, Thomas W. Jones's Mastering Genealogical Proof.

FYI if you're new: the GPS is the only widely accepted standard of proof in genealogy, and it states that no conclusion is proved without five things: thorough research, good citations, analysis and correlation of evidence, resolving any contradictions, and a written account. The best genealogists then working put this GPS together at the end of the 20th century under the auspices of the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG_, as an improvement for our purposes on the "preponderance of the evidence" standard borrowed from the law.

(2) Tony writes,

"Science is about the here-and-now whereas genealogy is about the been-and-gone. What this means is that genealogy only has a finite set of evidence available, and although more of that set may be discovered over time, no evidence outside of that set will ever be found. It also means that evidence cannot be created on demand in order to solve a particular problem, or to support/refute a given proposition. On the other hand, in science — technology permitting — an experiment can be conceived purposely to test a given theory, or to separate two competing theories. . . . Whereas science can usually conduct a specific experiment to disprove some of the candidate theories, and so support the remainder, genealogy can only search for more items of evidence that already exist. If they don’t exist somewhere now then they never will in the future either."
Some sciences, such as paleontology, are about the been-and-gone. I suppose that in the abstract both genealogy and paleontology only have "a finite set of evidence available," but in practice nobody knows all of it or even where it is. Both paleontologists and genealogists find new evidence all the time.

It's true that paleontologists and genealogists cannot conduct laboratory experiments on the past. But they do have the ability to make predictions based on what they know, and then see whether further research supports those predictions. These predictions and tests are quite similar to an experiment. If I find that a man's wife is named in a deed where he sells property, I can predict that there is likely to be some additional evidence of the marriage that I have not yet seen (whether a formal record of the event or an appearance in an obituary), and go look for it.

But I have a quarrel with the whole idea of a "finite" amount of evidence anyway. Evidence is information that can be used to answer a specific question. (That is the agreed genealogical definition.) Sometimes ingenious genealogists find evidence where others might not have perceived any at all.

In a recent NGSQ article by Judy G. Russell, she used records of people working on roads to ascertain when someone died (who had never worked on the roads). Many genealogists would not have thought of using that information as evidence to answer the question "When did Mrs. X die?"

I'm inclined to think that even if the amount of genealogical information is finite, the amount of evidence is not, because it depends on human ingenuity in the use of the information -- much as scientists use ingenuity to design experiments. (Improved indexes can also make information much more available to be used as evidence, as in this example from a few days ago.)

(3) IMO, it's useful to figure out just what constitutes "proof" or "evidence" in different disciplines. I don't think it's useful to fuss about whether one discipline can use the word in a different sense than another discipline, because that's just not going to change. It's not that hard to understand that new evidence can supersede a past proof in genealogy as in science, and that that kind of thing does not happen in mathematics.

(Happy New Year! By Blogger's count, this is MWM blog post #1300.)

Judy G. Russell, “'Don't Stop There!,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 99(1):37, March 2011.

Harold Henderson, "Is there a finite amount of genealogical evidence?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 January 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]