30 June 2012

Record Breaking Indexing

     On Monday, July 2nd FamilySearch Indexing is hoping to index 5 million names over a 24 hour period. The previous record is 4.9 million, so I think 5m is doable. Who knows, maybe we can finish off the 1940 census?

      Information for this event can be found on Facebook, as well as by logging into the indexing software.  If you've never indexed before, you can find more information here: FamilySearch Indexing.

     Given that this event is taking place over a 24 hour period, the actual event day is different depending on your time zone.  The "day" actually starts at 00:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT). So for example, Atlanta (-5 GMT) can start participating at 8pm on July 1st. Here's a list of the time zones:
  • Sydney, Australia: July 2 @ 10:00 AM
  • Moscow, Russia: July 2 @ 4:00 AM
  • Kyiv, Ukraine: July 2 @ 3:00 AM
  • Johannesburg, South Africa: July 2 @ 2:00 AM
  • Paris, Berlin, Rome, Brussels, Warsaw, Stockholm: July 2 @ 2:00 AM
  • London, England: July 2 @ 1:00 AM
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil: July 1 @ 9:00 PM
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina: July 1 @ 9:00 PM
  • Ottawa, Canada: July 1 @ 8:00 PM
  • Santiago, Chile: July 1 @ 8:00 PM
  • New York City, New York: July 1 @ 8:00 PM
  • Chicago, Illinois: July 1 @ 7:00 PM
  • Salt Lake City, Utah: July 1 @ 6:00 PM
  • Phoenix, Arizona: July 1 @ 5:00 PM
  • Los Angeles, California: July 1 @ 5:00 PM
  • Anchorage, Alaska: July 1 @ 4:00 PM
  • Honolulu, Hawaii: July 1 @ 2:00 PM
Feel free to use the above image to promote this event.

26 June 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - The Evans Family Plot

     This is the Evans family plot at the Rock Branch Baptist Church in Elbert County, Georgia. Buried in this plot are, from left to right, Harriett Partain Evans and William A Evans (3x Great Grandparents),  Leila Craft Evans Brown and John Evans (2x Great Grandparents),  Ethel Evans (daughter of Leila and John), Leila Evans (daughter of Harriett and William), Luther Evans (daughter of Leila and John). At the end of this row is another grave, one that may or may not belong in the Evans plot. I can't read the stone:

Here are the other stones in the plot:


25 June 2012

Return to Sender

Edith Fellows

     Back in March I wrote about some personal letters of actress and step-cousin, Edith Fellows.  With only a slight connection to her, I thought that there might be more immediate relatives who would like to have the letters.

     Based on information I received from my aunt, I knew the name of her daughter and son-in-law and I was able to confirm this information on IMDB.com, a movie database website.  Since Edith's daughter and grandaughter are both actresses, I was able to follow a "family tree" on IMDB. I was then able to find Edith's granddaughter, Natalie, on Facebook.  A few days and a few messages later, Edith's letter's were in the mail and on their way back to her family.

     Although this example is a little different, it shows that there are other resources for genealogists, than those created explicitly for genealogy.

18 June 2012

New Beta features at 23andMe

   23andMe's ancestry features have changed a lot since I first posted about them on this blog, and there are more changes yet to come. A few days ago I received an invitation to be a beta tester for some new features at 23andMe.  These new features were announced at the recent SoCal Jamboree and mentioned on a number of blogs.  So far two new features have been introduced to beta testers: the My Ancestry page and Relative Finder Geographic Map View.

     Here's what the My Ancestry page looks like:

     Pretty much, this is a landing or summary page of 23andMe's genealogy features. Each box links you to the corresponding feature, though not always in a way you might expect. For example: the Top Relatives Surnames box. If you click on the Smith section in this box you might expect to be taken to a list of your Smith matches, but you are only taken to the basic Relative Finder list page.  You will then have to manually search for anyone named Smith.  This page is still under development, with graphics updates in the works. Overall I think that this page is a simple, yet logical, addition to the site.

     The other new feature is the Relative Finder Geographic Map View:

     This is a new way to look at the pre-existing Relative Finder match list, accessed via a toggle button on the RF page. Each marker indicates a geographic location that one of your matches has listed in their profile. The number on the marker indicates the combined number of times that place is listed in those profiles.  Here's a closeup view:

     You can see that I have 35 matches that mention North Carolina as a location for their ancestors. The matches don't seem to appear to be in any particular order. It would be nice to see public matches first, in order of percentage shared. Click on a match's name and you'll be taken to their profile

     The matches shown on your RF Map view can be adjusted to the following levels: Close Relatives, 1st-3rd Cousins, 4th-6th Cousins, and Distant Cousins. It's interesting to note that these categories are different from the ones listed on the RF List view. When initially viewing the map, I eliminate the Close Relatives - I know what locations I'm looking for and seeing my self and my parents just clutters the map.

     One thing about this map: it won't work if users don't properly fill out their profile.  The location data seems to be pulled from "Family Locations" portion of each user's profile. This section is a bit confusing to fill out to begin with. There are no instructions and the locations need to be filled out properly and separated by commas and semicolons.  I have seen many, many, many profiles where folks have written paragraphs worth of information, which doesn't work with the system. Because of the confusion created by this, many people list only basic locations, such as states. After not seeing my mom's locations on my map, I realized that I had listed only states on her profile. A random dot in the middle of Georgia isn't exactly helpful when trying to find a match. At minimum, users should list counties. I would recommend that prompt be added on the profile page and the RF pages to help users fill out their profiles.

     Some other improvements that would be nice:

  • When you click on a match, it would be neat to see a "other locations in common" link, that might highlight any other location markers we share.
  • Ditto with any other matches that we might have in common.
  • As the gedcom feature is rolled out, perhaps surnames and locations will be integrated together in this feature. 
  • As I switch over to list view, my settings should be the same. So, if I was just viewing 3rd-4th cousins on the map, I should see those, and only those, results on my list view.
  • Move duplicate listings in the same locations. For example, I list Edgefield County, SC twice in my profile, once for my maternal side and one for my paternal side. I am listed twice on the map for Edgefield County, which is unnecessary. 
     There are more new features coming, including Gedcom uploads. I'm excited to see what new features are coming, as well as what improvements will be implemented. 23andMe is off to a great start so far. 

15 June 2012

New on Ancestry.com: National Cemetery Interment Control Forms

     I noticed a great new database on ancestry.com this morning: U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962.

     I have two uncles buried in national cemeteries during this time period, and was excited to find out just what information the database would supply.  I found one of the uncles and did not find the other (who abandoned his family and was never heard of again). This is pretty disappointing because there is a lot of great information on these cards that I would have loved to see for this particular black sheep.

     Below you can see the card for my Great-Uncle by marriage, Joe Funston. I already knew a lot about him, but I learned a little more today: his army serial number, dates of service, service details, and his address when he died. Other things I already knew include birth and death dates, rank, birth and death dates, burial location, etc.  I also see that there is a plot reserved for his widow, though she declined to use it and is buried elsewhere with her father.

11 June 2012

Research Strategy: Tabbed Browsing

     When I'm doing genealogy research online, I often find that when I come across unexpected finds, I'm easily distracted from what I set out to do. Sometimes when I follow the new research I can loose track of where I originally meant to go.  To help me get back on track I utilize tabbed browsing in my research.

     What do I mean by tabbed browsing? It is having multiple web pages open in one browser window. It means that almost every time I click on a link on a genealogy site, I open that page in a new tab in my browser window. Here's a screenshot of this morning's research:

     You can see that I have two different browser windows open, each of them with multiple tabs. Each tab is a different step in this morning's research.

  • I started off looking at Agriculture census records for my ancestor, James Shiflet. Two tabs: the Agriculture search results and 1860 Agricultural census page.
  • I realized that I had not saved a copy of his 1950 and 1960 census records to my computer. Three new tabs: the Population Census search results and 1950 and 1960 census page.
  • The Ancestry.com Georgia Census images for 1950 are terrible. I opened a new browser window and went to FamilySearch.org. Two tabs: a General Search for James Shiflet and the 1950 census page.
  • I got distracted by another results from the general search and opened one additional tab: James' daughter's death certificate.
     At this point I have all of my research laid out in front of me. I never have to use my back button. I never have to re-key my search forms. I never have to re-load images. I never forget what I was originally searching for.

     To open my new tabs I simply hold down the command key (⌘) and click on the link.  On a windows computer this would be the control key or you can right click on the link and select "new tab" from the menu.

09 June 2012

Non-Population Census Schedules on Ancestry.com

     For some time, Ancestry.com has had a few states worth of Non-Population Census Schedules online. I found a lot of relatives in their South Carolina records and waited patiently for the Georgia records to go online. I could have accessed these in person at the Georgia Archive, but there are so many records other there that I had not gotten around to them.  Then I didn't bother to get around to them since they didn't have an index and Ancestry.com announced that they would be putting the GA records online in 2011. Well, that didn't happen. But on May 21st the Non-Population database was updated and the GA records arrived. Yay!

     Well, not so much "yay" as "what the...?" There are some problems with the Georgia index. Some somewhat serious problems that could impact researchers.

     First: badly indexed names.  Now, some of this is due to bad images. I browsed a number of pages that were extremely difficult to read, probably based on bad microfilm copies. I'm sure the original records were destroyed long ago, so Ancestry can only work with the current microfilm. But the indexing problems go well beyond that.

     See the image on the right? I think the name of my 3x Great-Grandfather is pretty clear: "R T Smith." Maybe the indexer might not get the "T", but otherwise it's pretty easy. Apparently not. The only thing the indexer got right was the "T"! They turned the "R" into a "B" and "Smith" into "Chnith."

     There is no way that anyone searching for Smith would find this record. So how did I find him? I searched for my ancestor's neighbors in the corresponding population census, using the FAN Club approach to search for Friends, Associates & Neighbors.

    Most of them were indexed badly as well, but at least "Brnmbelo" is close enough to "Brumbelo" to be found via soundex. Once I found this record I went through a portion of the page adding corrections to the names. Although this is the worst example that I've found so far, many of my other ancestors have indexing errors that should have been pretty obvious.

     Second: mixing up the 1860 and 1850 records. I really don't understand how this happened, but let me start with a screenshot:

     As you can see in the image, I was searching for anyone with the surname "Boatright" in Emanuel County, Georgia in 1850. I got results back for both 1850 and 1860.  If I do the same search, but in 1860, I don't get any results. So it seems that the 1860 records have been placed in the 1850 category.  Further, when you save an 1860 record to your family tree, it is saved with an 1850 date.  This is not the only example of this that I've run across and I have reported this error to Ancestry.com.

     So, if you are searching the Non-Population Census Schedules on Ancestry.com prepare to do some creative searching. I'm finding my ancestors and I'm coming up with some great information, but it's more difficult than it should be.

08 June 2012

My 1940 Census Indexing Progress

     The 1940 Census is 57.84% finished, thanks to volunteers using the Family Search Indexing software. There are 18 searchable states and a number of other states at 100% that are going through the final steps. Wouldn't you know, pretty much all of these are states are ones that I'm not interested in. Sigh....

     So that means that I'm still going at it. Georgia is at 36% and currently working its way through Atlanta. South Carolina is running a little further behind at 23%.  Although I don't index every day, I do try to do some a few days a week.

     It's fun to see what I've accomplished: 2,840 names indexed and 4,480 names arbitrated. Arbitrating can be a lot faster, though sometimes it can be more difficult. I tend to do a few batches of arbitration and then do an indexing batch.

     Yesterday, I got an email from FamilySearch Indexing, letting me know that there were new achievement badges available.  I have indexed and arbitrated 1940 Census records from 15 states! I know that there are some folks out there who made a point to index a batch from every state, which is pretty impressive. I'm happy to see my Delaware badge, which shows that I was in it from the start. Here are all of my badges:


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