Friday, March 12, 2010

Beating the Search Engines and Inside "Who Do You Think You Are"

The ProGenealogist Blog this week, "Be Smarter Than a Search Engine," provides tips for combating the limitations of some search engines. It is hard sometimes to find just the right keyword; in many cases, you know the information should be there, but how to get to it is another question. And we'd all like to learn more about how to pull out those hidden bits and pieces we don't even know about.

As a side note, ProGenealogists in its March 3 blog revealed the company's involvement in the NBC production of "Who Do You Think You Are," and ProGenealogist CEO Natalie Cottrill appeared in the first episode with Sarah Jessica Parker. The blog offers a video of this first segment and indicates it will be posting "individual webpages for different episodes providing “behind-the-scene” insights that will better explain just how we found the clinching document or story that was presented in the show."

What I like about these webpages, covering two episodes, so far, is that it does provide some insight into the research process that can help others doing genealogy. And, if you're lucky, the show might touch on something relevant to your own genealogy -- maybe you had a Gold Rush ancestor and did not know "as many as ten people died for every mile traveled along the route."

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking a tip from the estate gumshoes

"It's all about spreading the net as wide as possible." A recent article out of The Sydney Morning Herald, "Unorthodox sleuthing helps trustee find beneficiaries," recounts the process taken by the NSW Trustee and Guardian, the public trustee of unclaimed estates. "Using everything from cemetery indexes and census data in several countries," the trustee was able to locate a rightful heir. "This was one of our most interesting cases because it required research in so many countries." Persistence pays.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Casting a wider net may help find elusive documents

We all have brick wall ancestors or event dates that just can't be found. In his most recent article, "Keeping your eye on the road -- not!" Larry Naukam suggests not only thinking outside the box but outside the neighborhood. When a search of local area sources goes cold, consider casting a wider net into the neighboring communities, which might be "across the river" or in another state. The author illustrates this point with several examples and provides suggestions on the types of sources that might yield further clues.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taking a wrong path in research and setting it right

GenWeekly welcomes our newest writer, AnnMarie Gilin-Dodson. Her first article, "Lessons Learned: Get it Right the First Time," addresses the problem faced by many researchers at some point, taking information at face value and going down the wrong path. It may not even be misinformation given to us by someone else, but our own assumptions that can lead us astray. I recently erred in taking at face value and assuming to be the direct line ancestor, the one person with our family name who bought property in an area at the right point in time. As the research continued, evidence began to suggest this person was, more than likely, the son and not the father, as I had believed. In going back over my research, If I had taken more time in analyzing each piece of evidence and not rushed to judgment, I would have discovered the one piece of information that ruled him out as the direct line ancestor. Much of what we do is trial and error, but in an effort to help us "get it right the first time," the author suggests developing a formalized plan for various stages of research, and provides a checklist to help us get started. I cannot say the list would have helped me avoid my own error, but it does address the Assess/Analyze stage of research, the very place where we need to take the greatest care and make sure the evidence supports our assumptions. The message is valid and the checklist a good starting point, which you can modify and add to based on your own experience.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Will the Real Mr. Snider Please Stand Up:
Finding Your Ancestor's Misspelled Name

The misspelling and misinterpretation of surnames is a classic problem for genealogists, one that never ceases. No matter how seasoned the researcher, surnames continue to challenge. In her article, "Will the Real Mr. Snider Please Stand Up: Finding Your Ancestor's Misspelled Name," Gena Philibert-Ortega continues her discussion of the surname challenge, suggesting ways to circumvent an all too common problem.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

While surname searches are important to genealogy, they are not the sole solution. In her article, "Getting Past Your Ancestor's Surname: The Need for a Comprehensive Research Plan," Gena Philibert-Ortega suggests a research strategy and offers multiple sources for moving beyond the surname. In may be that the one source you need is not indexed by surname, but by some other organizational category. As noted in the article, a well thought out plan will help a good researcher cover all the bases.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Beyond the Index

indexes are invaluable tools for accessing original information; however, they are subject to error and can be deceiving. In the article, "Beyond the Index," the issue of transcriber error is discussed, along with some ideas for getting around the sometimes strange convolutions.


Monday, August 11, 2008

The value of patterns in genealogy research

As noted in her article, "Mustering Up the Courage to Delve into Military Rosters," Judy Rosella Edwards suggests an otherwise dry list of facts and/or names can become interesting when you begin to observe patterns and the inklings of story beneath the surface. Perhaps examining these lists in reference to your own ancestors and others who served with them may tell you more than you might have imagined, about the unit, the politics, or even the person.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Century-old Tombstone Found on Houseboat

Lost and found, one tombstone. An engaging story by Melissa Slate, "Century-old Tombstone Found on Houseboat," tells the story of one child's tombstone found in an unlikely place and restored to the family through the efforts and expertise of a genealogist.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Technology dependence can work against us

There's a cute story by Arnold Lobel called, "The Letter." Toad is waiting by the mailbox, sure he's going to get a letter that just never comes. Frog decides to send Toad a letter to make him happy. Frog gives his letter to Snail, who agrees to deliver it. Frog rushes back to Toad's house and together they sit waiting for the letter to arrive. They wait four days. Snail mail is a little slow. In "Snail Mail Revisited," the author shows how too much dependence on technology can be a liability.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Auntie Mame: Friend or Foe?

Friends of the family can serve as great resources to one's own family history. Friends may have kept old wedding or birth announcements; they may have photos of you family that you've never seen before; or they may have kept personal family records that included information your family. Then there's the flip side. Friends may also lead us astray in our family history research. An interesting article on Bay, "Beware of Friends Posing as Relatives," points out that close family friends, sometimes adopted into the family and given honorary titles such as aunt or uncle, can set a researcher down a wrong path trying to prove a family relationship that simply does not exist. While there may be no real remedy for this excursion, the make-believe relative may be one more factor to weigh.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keeping in mind the "margin of error"

An article in the Tampa Tribune, "Use Caution When Accessing Newly Available Army Records," provides some background on how the process involved in bringing these records to greater public access may have compromised the data. While we consider military records "primary sources," we certainly have to keep in mind the margin of error and the problems of interpretation and transcription of data. This margin of error is good to keep in mind anytime you researching records other than "original" images that you can see and interpret for yourself.

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tips and hints for overcoming "Researcher's Block"

Sometimes our mind hits a brick wall, as much as our research. In his article, "Tips on Researcher's Block," Alan Smith provides some ideas to help you get reoriented and maybe take fresh perspective. One idea, for example, is to rearrange the format of your data such as writing out what you know in narrative form, putting it into an outline, or building a scrapbook. The process may shed new light. This and other tips and hints might to refresh your thinking . . . and your enthusiasm.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Researching Extinct Counties in Virginia

As noted by Melissa Slate in her article, "They Came and They Went: Extinct Counties of Virginia," one stumbling block that beginning genealogists often encounter is the changing boundaries within the regions that they are researching. Boundaries may have changed many times during the course of a location's history, so it cannot be emphasized strongly enough to research the backgrounds of the localities in which you are doing your research. . . . Virginia is a particular challenge for researchers." The article provides information on specific counties in Virginia--many of which no longer exist, which experienced boundary changes.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Be willing to "look beyond" preconcieved notions in spelling

Spelling variation is a common problem for researchers, to say nothing of outright errors in spelling and transcription error. In her article, "Looking Beyond 'Your' Spelling," Shelley Poblete explores some common causes of spelling variation and error, in addition to providing tips on using "wild card" and Soundex searches to help you get past spelling variation and error. One of the big things for researchers is to keep an open mind in all things, and be willing to "look beyond" preconceived notions whether in time, place, or what you consider to be the "right" name" or the "correct" spelling of a name. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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