27 April 2012

To Lead or To Be Led

    So far I have indexed over 1500 names for the 1940 Census. Those names are from a number of states, but many of them from Georgia. Aside from working on batches from Georgia, I have worked on the states given highest priority. It seems that a state is finished in about three days (or even less) once it's given "priority" status.  I'm hoping that any day now Georgia will be the highest priority state. Right now the priority is Louisiana.

     It seems to me that it's important to put at least half of my indexing effort toward the prioritized state, even if that state is of no interest to me. By concentrating on a specific state, volunteers can complete a state's index sooner. On the other hand, if everyone indexes only at random, it will take a lot more time to create even a single state index.

     What do you think? Focus on your own interest or work on the designated "priority" state?

25 April 2012

FindAGrave.com: What It Is, What It Isn't and How To Use It

     FindAGrave.com is not a genealogy website. FindAGrave.com is a genealogy resource.

     If you are a genealogist or family historian and you're not using FindAGrave.com, you are missing out on some valuable records. The website contains listings of 79 million graves. Odds are some of your ancestors are listed. Each memorial contains the location of the grave and information found on the headstone.  Many have photos of the headstones, listings of relatives and sometimes biographical information or even photos of the individual.

     Anyone can create a memorial or even a cemetery, but should be very careful not to duplicate previous memorials. If you don't live near a cemetery, you can place a request for a volunteer to take a photo of the headstone. The memorial on the right is for my 5x Great Grandmother, Rachel Johnson Albea. The memorial was already online, likely created from a cemetery transcription book, as there was no photo on the memorial. I placed a request and a short time later had a photo of (what was left) of her headstone. I also linked my 4x Great Grandfather, Tilman Albea's memorial to his mother. By doing this I created a small family tree. Through these links, seven generations of my Albea ancestors are connected.

     But as I stated, FindAGrave.com is not a genealogy website.  The information found in the listings is helpful for genealogy research, but was likely not created for that reason. The memorials are intended to be a listing of a person's burial place and a memorial for them. The fact that this information is beneficial and of interest to genealogists is a side benefit.

     But what does the purpose of the website matter, as long as the information is useful? Users need to remember this fact so that they understand how to use the site.

     Since the site has been around for so long, odds are that someone else has created listings of your relatives. This great! But it does sometimes cause conflict over "ownership" of memorials. Many people feel possessive of their relatives and want to "control" their ancestor's memorial. It's important to keep in mind that users are entitled to manage the memorials that they created.  They took the time to add them to the website, often walking cemeteries for hours. An exception to this is made for memorials that are the direct ancestors within four generations of another user. These memorials, provided that they are not already maintained by a direct descendant, should be transferred to their relative. You can request these memorials be transferred to you by using the "edit" tab at the top of each memorial and clicking on the "Suggest A Correction" link.  Before you do this be sure that your request fits the guidelines.

     But what about relatives that will not be transferred to you? How can you add the information that you have to a memorial? You can always add photos to any memorial. Any other information that you would like added can be sent to the creator of the memorial by using the "Suggest  A Correction" link.  You can send dates, locations, biographies, and memorial numbers of parents and spouses. The addition of obituaries or death certificates are not encouraged. It's a good idea to explain how you know this information, just as if you were sharing information with a fellow researcher.  Keep in mind that since this is a grave listing, the information on the memorial should be a reflection of the headstone (otherwise the memorial might be duplicated). Alternate information can be added in the biography.

     I encourage all genealogists to use the website and contribute to it. Anyone with questions about how to use FindAGrave.com should review the FAQs and check out the message boards.

21 April 2012

Doing My Part to Make the Census Searchable

     At this point, any ancestors I haven't found yet in the 1940 Census will not be found until an index is available.  The best way to gain access to an index will be to help create one.  The 1940 Census Community Project is working to create an index with the help of volunteers like me. So far, I've indexed a little more than 1,000 names from the 1940 Census using the FamilySearch Indexing program.  The index we're creating will be available on FamilySearch.org, Archives.com, FindMyPast.com and the National Archives.

     The Census Community Project uses FamilySearch Indexing's program. I've been indexing with this program for a few years now, but every project is different. So what have I learned while working on 1940 Census images?

  • I'm human and I make mistakes. But that's ok. As with all other FamilySearch Indexing projects, each record to transcribed by two people and then checked over by an arbitrator. My current rate of accuracy is 98%. Pretty good I think.
  • You can review your results in detail (log into the indexing software, click the "Arbitration Results" tab and then the "review batches' button). Some of the errors I make are "oops!" and one or two are "I was right on that..." You can ask for changes marked against you to be re-reviewed. Even arbitrators can make mistakes. 
  • If you read the instructions, you'll avoid common mistakes. Each field (house number, surname, place of birth, etc) has specific instructions to address common questions. Read them and learn things like:
    • If the line is blank, mark it blank and do not index the line number.
    • Children under five should have their "1935 locations" marked blank, even if the enumerator recorded a location.
    • If someone was living in the "same place" or "same house" in 1935 then you do not record a county or state, even if the enumerator recorded them.
  • I prefer to index down columns instead of across rows. It's faster. Some of the fields will pre-fill, such as surname, if I navigate down a column using the down arrow key.  This method also enables me to concentrate more on a specific field instead of having to jump around. It disconnects me from the individual person and helps me focus on reading what's on the page. Usually this is a good thing. Sometimes it hurts though, if the enumerator makes a mistake (ex 1935 locations for someone under 5).
  • The states of interest to me are not going to be complete for a while. The western half of the US is being indexed much more quickly than the middle or east. 
  • I can track the progress of the indexing here.
     I don't know if the above list is encouraging or discouraging or neither, but indexing really is a great experience.  I feel like I've accomplished something and helped someone. I encourage anyone interested in genealogy to take part in this project. Again, you can find out how to participate here.

     Please note that this blog was inspired by, and written in response to, a contest hosted by The 1940 Census Community Project and does constitute a contest entry for a prize.

19 April 2012

DNA Day & Sales

     The past few years genealogists and DNA enthusiasts have waited excitedly for National DNA Day, which falls on April 20th this year. Like many other "holidays," the excitement is often about the sales. The past two years I've purchased discounted DNA tests on DNA Day. I really shouldn't spend more money on DNA tests, but if the sales price is right...!

     I received an email from Family Tree DNA this afternoon that their sale started at 6pm (central) and will end at 11:59am on Saturday. The prices are their regular sales prices - nothing amazing, but still a good deal.

     Checking the 23andMe Facebook page, I was disappointed to learn that they are not planning to have a sale this year.  They said:
"Did you know that the first human genome took 13 years and $3 billion dollars to generate? Out of the budget! Today, however, your genome is accessible and affordable -- available online and for only $99 and a $9/month subscription. This year on DNA Day (April 22) we will celebrate accessibility and affordability of the genome and promote genetics education with our Genetics 101 tools; we will not be offering a discount to our $99/$9 price. Come visit www.23andme.com and learn about you!"
     Meh. The way I see it they should have offered a token offer of free shipping or $23 off (as they've done before).  Something.  They do know that their biggest competitor is having a sale, right?  That savvy consumers have saved up their money to buy a test on DNA Day?  What's to stop those consumers from buying from Family Tree DNA? They might have shot themselves in the foot by not having some sort of offer. I know that if I do buy a test this week it will be at a sales price.

     There's one other major company that I'm waiting to hear from: Ancestry.com.  Will they open up their new autosomal DNA test for National DNA Day?

     UPDATE: I ordered a Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA for my half-brother. I saved $90!

18 April 2012

Georgia Voter Records on Ancestry.com

     A new database was published last week on Ancestry.com: Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869.  In conjunction to passing the 14th Amendment, Georgia re-registed elegible voters, both black and white.  This database contains lists of those eligible to vote, as well as oaths taken by each registrant, pledgeing their loyalty to the United States.  This database might be of particular interest to those researching black Georgians.  For a short period of time, until Jim Crow became king, men of all races were seen as equal under the law.

     These records lack certain identifying pieces of information, such as age and familial relationships. However, used in conjunction with the 1870 census, researchers should be able to identify their ancestors.  I was able to find a few of my ancestors, though one, a known politician before the Civil War, does not seem to be listed. He might have lost his eligibility to vote based on his political activity during the war.

     Here's an example of the type of documents found in this database. These are the Return and Oath for Tilman Albea, my 4x Great Grandfather:

06 April 2012

Save Yourself Some Time and Grief: Ask For Help

     I have found all of my dad's direct ancestors in the 1940 Census, as well as a few collateral folks too. On the other hand, I have found only my mom's mom and maternal grandmother. I had no success finding any of her father's family or the rest of her mother's family. The problem comes from them being mill workers and moving often. It's difficult to find the correct address, especially when they were living in smaller towns without online city directories. I'd browsed through about eight EDs looking for my mom's dad and his family to no avail.

     I'd meant to call my Great-Aunt Ree earlier in the week for help, but got side tracked with searching for my dad's people.  Today I asked my mom to call Aunt Ree, to which she responded that I should call her. She's making me work on my social skills... sigh. So I called her and very quickly realized why I couldn't find her or her brother, my Grandaddy: I was looking in the wrong city. I thought that she's said before that the family was in Greenville, SC in 1940, but today she said that they had been living on Greene Street in Greenwood, SC.

     I chatted on the phone with her while I browsed the two EDs that contained Greene Street. I learned that they moved to Greenville in '42 and that her father, who died in '47, had never owned a car. Oddly though, he had driven a taxi cab for a few years. After the family moved to Greenville, they often visited family still in Greenwood by riding the P&N Train back and forth.  Her parents had worked in mills in Greenwood and for other mills in Greenville that were all owned by the same company. She can remember so many little details about her childhood and was more than happy to tell me everything she could.

     Unfortunately I did not find her on Greene Street, so questioned her some more. Before that they had lived on Pelzner. And that's where I found them: 515 Pelzner Street.

    I'm really glad that I called my great-aunt, otherwise I probably would not have found this family until an index became available. And it looks like South Carolina is going to be late on the list.  So do yourself a favor: if you're having trouble finding your family and there's someone you can ask for help, do so.

05 April 2012

George Washington in the 1940 Census

I found George Washington in the 1940 Census.  Can you see him?

I Found Them In 1940 And I Still Don't Know the Answer

     One reason I was looking forward to the 1940 Census was because I was curious about the organization of my Granny's household at the time. I knew that her parents had separated and wanted to know if they had divorced.  Their death certificates give conflicting information: one stating they were married, the other divorced.

     On Apr 2nd I found my granny, Sarah Britt, her father, Nathan, and brother, Evoid. They were living in Elbert County, Georgia and listed only two pages away from the man Sarah would marry that August (yes, she was 14). There was no sign of Sarah's mom, LeDora, nor her two sisters, Ollie and Helen.  And what is Nathan's marriage status. Married? Divorced? Oddly, it looks like AS. What on earth...?  (Also, I will not blame the indexer who will not be able to figure out Evoid's name)

     Maybe if I could find LeDora it would help clear things up? It took me two more days to find her, having browsed through 10 (!!!) enumeration districts to do so. But I did find her, living with her oldest daughter and her husband, as well as her youngest daughter. Maybe her marriage status will provide an answer? Nope; its a scribbled mess. (Also, I'm a little concerned that Ollie was 15 and married to a 35 year old)

     With the help of some folks on Twitter, during the Ancestry.com chat with Crista this afternoon, I think we've figured out Nathan's marriage status. They started to write 'M' for married but stopped after only writing the front flick. They crossed out the flick and then wrote an 'S'.

     For LeDora, it looks like they wrote 'M' and then scribbled it out. They then wrote something else - a '7'? That doesn't make sense. EDITED UPDATE: While watching DEARMyrtle's webinar tonight I learned that it is in fact a crossed out M with a 7. It turns out that the 'M' was recorded in the field and an office worker crossed it out and wrote 7 because there was no spouse listed. Voila!

     But I guess it does imply a few things. They were not divorced at the time, otherwise they would have just said so. However, they probably did not consider themselves married either. And I'm kinda sad that the kids got split up like that. But those are the facts of life I suppose.

04 April 2012

A 1940 Census Search Status Update

Whitfield / Huyler - 1940 Census     The census release got off to a rocky start on Monday, but by Tuesday everything was running smoothly. The National Archive's website was running perfectly for me while Ancestry.com and FamilySearch were steadily adding images. Today, MyHeritage became the first commercial site to have all images online.

     So, how am I doing? Here's a list of my direct line ancestors. I had EDs picked out for all of them and have conducted searches for them.

FoundRelationship    MissingRelationship
Betty HuylerGrandmother    Roy AlbeaGrandfather
Ruby Huyler WhitfieldGreat-Grandmother    Vernon & Auline AlbeaGreat-Grandparents
Sarah BrittGrandmother    Vary "Mack" HuylerGreat-Grandfather
Nathan BrittGreat-Grandfather    Nina Albea2xG Grandmother
Thomas CraftGrandfather    John & Ida Huyler2xG Grandparents
BE & Ruth CraftGreat-Grandparents    Ledora Barfield BrittGreat-Grandmother
Stephen T Boatright3xG Grandfather    Frances Boatright Barfield2xG Grandmother
William D Witt2xG Grandfather    Effie Craft2xG Grandmother
    Leila Evans2xG Grandmother
    Leverett & Louise Waters2xG Grandmother

    When I look at this list, something stands out: for the most part the left hand side are farmers and the right hand side are mill workers or widows. Mill workers moved a lot. A lot. Looking at city directories, they are almost never in the same place two years in a row. And the widows have possibly moved in with one of their children, leaving the homes they had with their husband.

     I'm going to keep looking for my missing ancestors, but I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to find them without an index.  As far as index completion is concerned, I think I've heard that one might be completed as soon as 6 months.  I'm going to have to do my part and do some more indexing with FamilySearch. I've done two pages so far and have found it exceedingly easy. Hopefully they'll start Georgia and South Carolina soon!

02 April 2012

What I Found So Far in 1940

     It's been 12 hours since the official release of the 1940 Census and I've managed to download 2 EDs. I've spent many other hours searching for the rest to no avail. And it's not because I don't know where they are or I can't find them, it's because the census is too popular for its own good.

     The National Archives created a lot of hype regarding the census release and, as the Ancestry Insider predicted, it crashed their website.  From the minute the National Archive's website opened it was overloaded and difficult to use. The presentation during the opening ceremony didn't even work! About 45 minutes in the site went down completely.  When it came back up it wasn't much better. Images do not load. Your best bet is to download the images. That is, if the download process will work.

     Understandably a number of folks expressed their displeasure and frustration on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter - and I was one of them. As my mom can attest, I have zero patience. If someone tells me I can do something at a certain time, I expect to be able to do it. I completely understand that traffic to the site was insane, but that doesn't change my frustration level. Just being honest.

     When I got frustrated with the Archives site, I switched to Ancestry.com. They had managed to add a few Pennsylvania Counties, home to my brother-in-law's family. I found his grandfather and his parents, which I sent to my sister. I wasn't really too surprised that my brother-in-law was 'blah' about the find.

     Back the Archive's site: they did make an effort to improve access from minute one. I honestly think they thought they were prepared. And I was going to say that their efforts have helped only a little, but just now I re-ran a search to great success. I'm currently downloading ED 73-1 and ED 52-24. Things are looking up!

Today Is The Day

From Ancestry.com's main page:

     At 8:30 am I'll be tuned into the National Archive's live webcast. I'll then start searching for my family on their site. But I'm also curious about how quickly other sites, such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com will have images online. From the graphic above, it looks like Ancestry.com plans to have the first images up some time today. 

     I have been invited to be part of the Ancestry.com 1940 Aces program. They promise to provide updates to the progress they make in getting the census images and indexes online.  I like that they're not making promises on their progress but are being realistic. They're going to do their best and they'll keep us updated.

     I'm looking forward to exploring the 1940 Census... but maybe for now I should get some sleep. Only 8.5 hours to go!

Update: 8am
     Ancestry.com has select images available for American Samoa, Delaware, DC, Guam, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, Panama Canal, Rhode Island and the Virgin Islands.
     FamilySearch has the complete images available for Delaware.


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