Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Legacy-FamilySearch webinars now online

The two Legacy-FamilySearch classes that Geoff Rasmussen taught at the Arizona Family History Expo this past weekend are now available to view online. The handouts are also there for each class. The two classes are:

- New FamilySearch Made Easy with Legacy Family Tree (59 minutes) – this one is the overview to everything
- Improving Your Use of New FamilySearch: Data Cleanup Strategies (60 minutes)

Both are available at:

- FamilySearch page at www.LegacyFamilyTree.com/fs.asp
Webinars page at www.LegacyFamilyTree.com/webinars.asp

Geoff Rasmussen
Millennia Corporation

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Family's Sorrow Revealed in 1848 Newspaper

Family trees, with all the dates carefully researched and neatly recorded, tell you that your ancestors existed. But to get to know them as people–the lives they lived, their hardships and triumphs–you need to know their stories. For that kind of information, nothing beats an archive of historical newspapers, as the following story illustrates.

Tom Kemp, our Director of Genealogy Products, was doing research on the Ayres family, who lived in Westchester County, New York, in the mid-nineteenth century.

He found James Ayres (born in 1817) and his wife Ann (also born in 1817) listed in the 1850 Census for Greenburgh, Westchester County, New York. The Census also listed their three children: James H. (born in 1842), Sarah (born in 1844), and Frederica (born in 1849).

Looking at this family closely, we see that there is a suspicious five-year gap in the ages of the two youngest children: Sarah is 6 and Frederica 1. Tom, who has been doing genealogy for 45 years, knows that these gaps are often the most difficult to research–and yet often turn up the most interesting and poignant family history. He also knows that you can't rely on census records to find every member of a family–newspapers provide family history details not found anywhere else.

Death was something people in 1850 were all too familiar with. The life expectancy was only around 39 years. Infant mortality was shockingly high–roughly 22 out of every 100 live births died as infants. Is there an Ayres family tragedy that the above record does not reveal–was there a child born that had died before the 1850 Census? Tom turned to GenealogyBank's extensive newspaper archive to find the answer.

It didn't take Tom long to find what he was looking for, and a painful part of the Ayres' family history came to light. In the Dec. 12, 1848, issue of the Hudson River Chronicle (Sing Sing, New York), he found an obituary notice for the daughter of James and Ann Ayres: Lovina Ayres, who was born Aug. 7, 1846, and died Nov. 26, 1848.

And there is more. Accompanying the obituary, the family inserted this notice–and suddenly the personal connection is made, and we can feel the Ayres' sorrow:

Newspapers not only fill in gaps in census records, they provide intimate family details that humanize genealogy research. Imagine if the Ayres were part of your family tree and you found this newspaper notice. Suddenly, you've come to know something about their lives; you've shared their grief, holding onto the image of the smile on Lovina's lips as their darling two-year-old girl passed away. They've become part of your family.

"GenealogyBank's newspaper archive gives us important details about Lovina: her brief life, exact age, dates of birth/death, and even the actual poem that her parents chose to remember her by. For a brief moment we are standing there in the home–feeling the grief of our ancestors as they lived it," Tom commented. "These are details you just won't find in the census or anywhere else. Family trees are just not complete without the details available in newspapers."

Friday, January 14, 2011

How an Expert Tackles the Problem

By Ancestry Monthly Update 05 January 2011

Every search has to start somewhere. Even experience and know-how won’t change that, says Joseph B. Shumway, AG, professional genealogist with ProGenealogists.

“You want to find good documentation for each generation,” he says. “You don’t want to connect to the wrong line.” For Shumway, that means starting your search in the present … or at least as close as you can get. “All the background knowledge you acquire for the more contemporary generations can help you see further into the past.”

That’s just one of Shumway’s tips for tackling a family history problem. What else does Shumway suggest?

SLOW DOWN. “Sometimes you can get too far ahead of yourself. It’s better to slow down, find as much documentation as you can for each generation. The more info you have about each ancestor, the fuller your understanding is going to be.”

SEE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE KNOW. “Your first step is always to browse around and find out what’s already been done. Look for compiled family trees, books, items like that. The information you find may not be reliable, but you can use it as a guide to help you decide what to look for. From there, it’s a matter of looking for additional records to supplement – even prove or disprove – what you’re finding.”

KNOW WHEN YOU GET THERE. “How do you know when you’ve found enough information about an ancestor? When you get to a place where you feel beyond a reasonable doubt that you’ve connected the right people to each other and when you feel pretty certain that it’s unlikely that there’s another contender whom you might have missed.”

PICK YOUR GO-TO SOURCES: “If you’re a beginner, your key record sources are always going to be census records and vital records, at least for most parts of the western world. I have a lot of tricks that I’ll use to find people: wildcard searches, searching for everyone with the same first name or last name in a geographical area, for example. And if the problem I’m facing is that I don’t have enough evidence to prove a connection, I’ll look at siblings, neighbors and other associated people that I find mentioned in records with the person I’m interested in. Focus on these people for a while and you might find clues to the person you’re looking for and piggyback on the sibling or neighbor.