Saturday, September 22, 2007

Genealogy and History Thoughts - Column One

This column was not exactly the one I originally planned on posting, but I could not pass up commenting on Mike Elgan's "Coming Soon: The Mother of All Genealogy Databases." I realize that Jasia, Randy Seaver and others have already posted their thoughts on this article, but I feel as though I need to add my two cents worth as well.

After reading this article, I believe Mr. Elgan's concept of genealogy is incorrect. I realize that Mr. Elgan is writing from the view of someone in the computer field, and that his interest in genealogy is only related to the networking that has been occurring in genealogy lately. The social networking with other genealogists over the internet is only a small part of genealogy. Most of a genealogist's research is done off the internet, in libraries or other repositories. Most of the records that genealogists use are not on the internet, and even with information found on the internet, that information has to be verified with information not on the internet. I know that not everyone believes spending time digging for old documents interesting.

Of course, I can't resist commenting on some of Mr. Elgan's remarks.

"Millions of people around the world spend hours tracing their 'roots' as far back as they can. I've always suspected that people are really searching for self-identity."

It is possible that some people who do genealogy are searching for an identity, but that is not the reason why I got interested in family history. I got into genealogy primarily because I was interested in the history of my family. Most of my relatives do not know much about the history of our family, and it was my Grandfather who originally began to do research on our family. I took over because I was curious.

"Unfortunately, many uncover unpleasant family secrets. Instead of finding aristocrats and royalty, people are likely to discover war deserters, criminals and illegitimate children. Even more common is to find family origins in countries not part of the family lore. Genealogy isn't for wimps."

This was precisely the reason why I got into genealogy. I wanted to find out the truth about the history of my family.

"Many Americans who consider themselves white or black are in fact both to one degree or another."

This doesn't shock me at all. Racial mixing between Europeans, Native Americans and Africans has occurred before. Quite a bit of racial mixing occurred as a result of slavery. I have to wonder, though, just how well known is this to most Americans. It does make me wonder how well history is being taught in schools.

"The biggest genealogy hobbyist site,, claims to have 5 billion records collected globally, including census, immigration and military records; newspaper and magazine clippings; court, land and probate files and other records going back to the 16th century. The site enables its users to do the work of piecing together who's related to whom. It's an impressive database. You can simply enter names - your mother's maiden name, for example - and get back dozens or hundreds of possibilities, which you can then narrow down and use the result as the foundation for a new tracing."

Sometimes, I wish it was that easy. I must stress, though, that Ancestry is just a tool. I can't just use the internet to create my family tree. I have to find records offline, and most of the records are not online. I still have to do fact checking, and I can't assume that a John Smith in a database is my John Smith. It's more complicated than that.

In the next ten years, there will probably be more records online, but I do not believe tracing my family history will be as simple as typing in my name. I do not believe I would come up with an accurate tree. There any many trees with incorrect data online. I will still have to go to the places that my ancestors lived, as that is where the records will be. There will still be more records offline than online, especially when one thinks about all of the privacy concerns today. Also, I believe most of the world's records will still be offline because those repositories will not always have the funding to digitize records and put them online. It would be nice if all of the world's records were online, but the reality is that it takes many hours to transcribe and digitize records before those records can be put online. One cannot expect the records to be put online in weeks; the process of making a searchable database with records takes years to complete.

Well, that is my two cents on this issue. Does anyone agree or disagree with me? As always, you can leave your thoughts as a comment.

Things to Keep in Mind ... An Interesting Blog Article

This article was posted on the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog yesterday, and I thought I would add a link to the article. The article is short, but the argument that a name of an ancestor might be more common than thought is something that is worth remembering. You can read the article here.

Added A Few More Genealogy Blogs ... Again

I've added a couple more genealogy blogs to the list. The blogs added are:

  • Searching for our Ancestors' Journal
  • Miriam's Eastern Washington Genealogical Society Blog

You can find these blogs and other blogs on the lower left hand of the page. Any suggestions for history or genealogy blogs are welcome.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Genealogy Blogs Added

I've added more genealogy blogs today. The blogs added are:

  • Amy Crooks' Untangled Family Roots
  • Coffee/Coffey Call
  • Midge Frazel's Granite in My Blood

You can find these and other blogs on the lower left hand of this blog. Any other suggestions for history and genealogy blogs are welcome.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Genealogy and History Thoughts - Coming Soon!

I have decided to start a column-like post on thoughts about genealogy and history. Hopefully, I'll be able to post this column once a week (or as close to weekly as I can). I hope everyone will enjoy this column. Either way, this column will be coming soon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Carnival of Genealogy Posted!

The Carnival of Genealogy was posted earlier today. You can read it here, at Susan Kitchen's blog.

I did not submit an article this time, primarily for several reasons. I've been busy with school work and thus, I have not had much time to write long posts. In addition, I primarily only have the basic details for most of my ancestor's war stories; there are still many holes in the details and facts in those stories. I still have more research to do. Plus, I'm a little hesitant to post stories in light of the recent controversy. I'm still erring on the side of the caution.

Anyhow, the next Carnival of Genealogy topic is on weddings. Hopefully, I'll be able to contribute an article.

Speaking of weddings, a book you might want to read is All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding by Carol McD. Wallace (New York: Penguin Books, 2004). I have not yet finished the book, but this book deals with history of weddings. In short, it is book on an aspect of U. S. social history.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Added A Book List

Earlier today, I added a list of history books that I am currently reading. Needless to say, I will be updating this list in the future. I also plan to add a list of history books that I have recently read. Hopefully, I'll have that set up in a couple of days.

You can find this book list at the bottom of the page, just under the copyright notice.

Another Source Where Information Can Be Found

If you're searching for more records for your family history and happen to have black sheep in the family, one record you might want to consider looking for is the fingerprint card of your relative.

Why consider this record?

Some possible genealogical information that you might glean from a card:

  • Your relative's full name
  • The Alias that your relative might have used
  • Your relative's birthplace
  • Your relative's nationality at that time period
  • Possible physical description or a photo
  • Your relative's signature
  • Reason for your relative's arrest and whether or not they had a previous record of arrest
  • Your relative's sentence
  • And, of course, your relative's fingerprints

Of course, one must keep in mind that the fingerprint cards that might be available would be those of people who were born over a century ago. Of course, if you have a relative who disappeared in the early twentieth century, you might want to consider the possibility that he or she may have been in prison.

So, where can one find this record type?

If you know where a relative resided, I would contact the archives of the city or place where that person may have lived. You may possibly find the records stored there. Of course, there is a possibility that the old cards no longer exist, but it is still worth it to search and see if these cards still exist.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More Genealogy Blogs Added

Today, I have added several more genealogy blogs. The blogs that were added are:
  • Neil Smith's Genealogy Blog
  • Oxford County Genealogy Notebook
  • Pasco Genealogical Society Blog

Any suggestions for other genealogy blogs or history blogs is welcome.

Added A New Poll

Today, I have added a new poll to this blog. This time, the question has to deal with where one's ancestors have originated. You can vote more than once.