Friday, January 4, 2013

Some Good Words for Ancestry in General and Ancestry Trees in Particular

Eight years ago I was searching, as hard as I knew how, for one of my granddaughter's great-great grandfathers. From his approximate birthdate in the 1920 census, I knew he should be in the WWI draft registrations . . . but I didn't know where. At that time I used a genealogy database, and with unusual faithfulness at the time I entered the following:

. . . did not register for the WWI draft in Atlanta, Georgia; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; or Mayes, Carter, Cherokee, Muskogee, Tulsa, or Wagoner counties, Oklahoma (including the cities of Tulsa and Muskogee).
I conducted this search in August 2004 at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, using (if memory serves) the best available interface: a card catalog file of registrants organized geographically by draft board. It took a while. (Now I wish I had a picture of it!)

Recently I picked up this thread and quickly found him in Ancestry's on-line index -- he was in a different Oklahoma county, with a fairly informative draft card as these things go.

In addition, I was alerted to some information on a public user tree on Ancestry. Not only had the tree owner found information we didn't have, s/he had post images of the sources they used as well. These were derivative sources but they were a good start, especially given that they named said great-great grandfather's father!

Many of us complain regularly about both Ancestry the megabusiness and the often dubious contributors to public family trees. But we should also keep those complaints in perspective: compared to what alternative?

Harold Henderson, "Some Good Words for Ancestry in General and Ancestry Trees in Particular," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 4 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Anne Gillespie Mitchell said...

Full disclosure, I work for

Too often people make the mistake of assuming since some of a given source is bad all of it is bad. Which is just downright silly.

I've found all sorts of original documents scanned and attached to trees. Or just good leads and theories.

I've had people tell me not to use findagrave because some posts don't have tombstones, or some of the data attached to a posting is wrong.

I'm always amazed at people who don't look at everything, ie the infamous exhaustive search.

Thanks for your post!

Anne Mitchell

Harold Henderson said...

Thanks, Anne. I think we all appreciate your being around on the lists as well.

Connie Sheets said...

To all those who grumble about Ancestry (and I've done my fair share), I say "you should have been around before the internet." Without a doubt, the ease with which one can now find *where* an individual or branch of a family migrated, as your example illustrates, is the biggest change I've seen in my genealogy lifetime. I wouldn't want to go back to queries in Everton's and reading unindexed census microfilm page by page, although I do miss the fun of regularly receiving large manilla envelopes from distant cousins.