Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Complex Evidence; what it is, how it works, why it matters

After learning so much from Laura DiGrazia on how to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search, my next session at NERGC was with F. Warren Bittner. 

Mr. Bittner began his presentation with this statement: “The goal of family history is to establish identity and prove relationships. If this goal is not met, all other family history goals and activities are a waste.” So how do you do this?

The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is at the top of the list, and then Mr. Bittner drilled down. The key is to make sure evidence is scrutinized for details and compared with other evidence.

Keep track of your sources: Are they original or derivative?
Information: Is it primary or secondary?
Evidence: Direct (usually enough to answer the research question) or indirect (combination of sources)?  Since people live complicated lives, moving, marrying, etc., Mr. Bittner warns that direct evidence may cause problems if there is conflicting information, so verify by utilizing sources of indirect evidence.  Maybe a timeline of evidence sources could help?

Don’t be lured into thinking that successful research only consists of finding birth, death and marriage dates and if those come from direct evidence, they don’t need to be analyzed, nor does a written summary need to be done.

“Complex Evidence must include the analysis of evidence, the comparison between pieces noting the similarity and differences, and the resolution of conflicts.”

And last but not least, “Complex evidence without a written proof summary does NOT establish relationships or prove identity. The written summary of evidence is essential for proof of relationships.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tuesday’s Tip – Reasonably Exhaustive Search

How many times have we been instructed to use the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) when doing our genealogy research?  How many of us follow this five-step method?  No need to respond.

Although I have a copy of The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, I am in the guilty column; consequently I can’t get enough of these sessions when attending NERGC.  The recent conference held in Manchester, NH offered several options for learning to utilize the GPS.

The first session was presented by Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS where she posed the question, “what is a reasonably exhaustive search?”

The GPS is a set of criteria to prove a statement is true. The criteria help us to evaluate the credibility of information found.  The GPS is not to be used as we research, but instead in the evaluation of our conclusions. Is the conclusion adequately proven? Is there conflicting information that needs to be resolved? What is the quality of the sources we have used?  Research is done when we feel we have enough evidence to support a conclusion.

To achieve this goal:
Every statement of fact is cited;
Resolve any conflicting information;
Utilize a timeline of sources – BMD, Census, Will, Deed, Directories;
Look beyond the person of interest – families might give you information;
Consider the relevance of sources;
Practice makes perfect;
Read, read, read journals.

Laura deGrazia’s Warning Signs:
Did I conduct research solely or primarily in derivative sources?
Did I fail to locate records that provide primary information related to the problem?
Did I exclude extended family members and associates from my research?
Did I limit research to two or three classes of sources?

Your research is tested when you write your conclusion. This proof summary will help reveal any gaps you might have.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists, Standards Manual, states the five steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard:
1.     Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search in reliable sources from all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question;
2.     Collect and include a complete accurate source citation…;
3.     Analyze and correlate the collection information to assess its quality as evidence;
4.     Resolve conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other…;
5.     Write a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

The next session I will report on will be of Warren Bittner's Complex Evidence: What it is; how it work; why it matters. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Society Saturday – Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society News

Since the Society’s website continues to be offline (promised for February) sigh, I shall try to keep interested genealogists informed of upcoming events.

This morning at our Spring Series, Genealogy 101 and Beyond, professional genealogist, instructor, author and lecturer, Sharon B. Hodges, turned what might be considered a dry subject – Probate/Courthouse Records: Understanding Them and Locating Them – into an extremely interesting and informative presentation.  We were able to follow along and annotate on her six-page handout the proper procedures for research, what to look out for, and what gems are hidden in various documents.  The advice she underscored was: “Remember to look for all estate records not just the will.”  [Shodges782@verizon.net]

Since Fredericksburg is rich in Civil War history, librarian Holly Schemmer gave the second presentation on the multitude of resources available locally as well as online. She recommended the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database as a good starting point.  And of course, the library’s Virginiana Room is chocked full of resources for anyone searching Virginia Ancestors. The Library of Virginia located in Richmond, I am told, has incredible genealogical resources.

Wednesday, May 8, 7:00 p.m. in the Salem Church Branch Library, Ray Maki will be presenting his PowerPoint presentation, Making Sense of the Census.  Since I share our home with him, I know he will be talking about the little known aspects of the census that may hold the key to your research.

Saturday, May 11, 9:00 a.m. -12: 00 noon will be the last sessions in the Spring Series.  Club member Shannon Bennett will present both sessions. The first will be, DNA in Genealogy; the second will be, Continuing the family legacy: Honoring your heritage through lineage societies.

Wednesday, June 12, 7:00 p.m. in the Salem Church Branch Library, Pat Milnes, Registrar for the Washington-Lewis Chapter of the DAR will discuss current procedures and requirements for submission of applications and the research material available at the DAR Library in DC.

There are no meetings during July and August, because that's the best time to check out those courthouse records!

Anyone having ancestors in this area should definitely check out a little known gem, www.historiccourtrecords.org.  Among many other items, this site has an index of marriages from 1752-1961. As you know, we have indexed and digitized marriage records from 1986-present that are available through the Circuit Court.  There is a wealth of other information on Historic Court Records, so do check it out.

In the meantime, is anyone out there willing to give a hand with getting the website up and running, hosted on Rootsweb? 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

1890s Census Substitute for Windsor, Connecticut

When we developed the 1890s Census Substitute for Newtown, Connecticut several years ago and published the project in Connecticut Ancestry, on the Genealogy Club of Newtown's webpage, and mentioned in this blog, we hoped that other towns would follow suit.

While at the New England Regional Genealogical Society Conference we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Windsor, Connecticut Historical Society along with the Descendants of the Founders of Ancient Windsor have developed the 1890s Census Substitute for the town of Windsor.

Compiled by Elaine D. Brophy, They Lived in Windsor is a booklet soon to be published by the Windsor historical society.

We continue to hope other towns will use their 1890 records and develop an 1890s Census Substitute.

Friday, April 19, 2013

NERGC is Amazing

It is so exciting to be with 900+ people that share your passion.  And that is what we encountered upon arrival at the Radisson Hotel and Expo Center in Manchester, New Hampshire for the New England Regional Genealogical Conference, Woven in History - The Fabric of New England.

Because there are so many excellent speakers and interesting presentations at NERGC, I always study the program well before we arrive so I make the best choice for my research. Consequently my first session on Thursday afternoon was with Laura G. Prescott who spoke on Spinsters and Widows: Gender Loyalty within Families.

Laura showed examples of when the term "spinster" did not mean one who spins, or a woman who never married, but in deeds, the term spinster meant a woman who had legal rights, a woman who could act on her own behalf.

She shared a number of examples where wills and deeds of maiden aunts named all sorts of family members. In fact, sometimes there is so much information a spreadsheet is needed to keep track of relationships and who gets what item.

Laura mentioned that Library of Congress has a lot of information on Women's History. On Friday I attended another presentation by Laura on the Library of Congress website. That will be a blog for another day.

In the meantime we are comfortably ensconced in the Ash Street Inn, a bed and breakfast on...Ash Street in Manchester, about a mile away from the conference. This is the nicest B&B we have ever experienced, and we highly recommend it to anyone staying in this area.

We had the honor of dining this evening with our friend Jim Sanders, recently chosen as one of the top 40 genealogy bloggers of the year by Family Tree Magazine. Jim's blog is Hidden Genealogy Nuggets. If you haven't stopped by his blog, do check it out.

More reports to come. In fact, we spent two sessions today with Stephen Morse as he took us through a wide range of One-Step tools he has developed. We have used his site many times in the past, but had no idea of the breadth and depth of tools he has provided for genealogists.  Another blog...

We did have one disappointment - because of flooding in the Chicago area, our Geneabloggers hero Thomas MacEntee could not make it to Manchester for his two Saturday sessions. Hopefully we will be able to meet him at another time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tuesday’s Tip – Timelines in Genealogy Research

“A grasp of history is important in putting the circumstances of an ancestor’s life in context.” Speaking to an audience with experience that ranged from a few months to over forty years, Phyllis (Jule) Legare explained how important timelines are in genealogy research.

Presented in PowerPoint format, Phyllis showed a number of ways timelines can be developed to help fill out an ancestor’s life.   She explained that timelines provide chronological information of our ancestor’s lives as they fit into local and even world events.  Timelines can be historical events, a list of individuals in your family, or any combination. 

I decided to try one of her options, which was to develop a timeline for an individual.  I chose my grandfather, Harry Nunn, since he was the person who got me started on my genealogy journey. I thought I had pretty much filled out his life, so this database should be easy to fill in.  Wrong.

My fields were: Year, Event, Town, County, State, and Source. What I quickly realized was that since I had started his research in the mid-1990s, things like the five-year NY census were not known/available to us, and his whereabouts in 1910 was still a mystery.

I went about filling those holes in my database.  I cannot find him in the 1905 NY Census. In 1904 at the age of 14 he was sent from St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill to work with a Mr. Salmon (?), Middletown, NJ.  New Jersey also had a five year census, where I found a George H. Nunn in Morris, NJ, but not a Harry or Henry.

I am convinced that in 1910 Harry was in Alexandria Bay, NY working as a bartender, even though the stated age on that census was “30” when he was actually 20.   At this point I decided that not only is my Irish side creative with their ages, but that tendency seems to be on my German side as well!  I went back to the database and added another field – Age. It will be fun to track how individual’s ages were recorded through the years.

Harry was married in 1914, so in 1915 and 1920 he is living with his in-laws, Patrick and Maggie Doyle.  By 1930 Harry, Mary and their children are living at 1948 Cruger Avenue in the Bronx.  I had assumed that the Doyles died at some point in the 1920s, but again, have had no luck finding their death dates.

Consequently I was surprised that in 1925 the family was living at the Cruger Avenue house, but with Margaret (Maggie) Doyle as head of household. Her daughter Winnie (age 21) was living there along with the Nunn family, cousin Mae Conlon and niece Catherine Murphy.  Now I know that Patrick Doyle died between 1920 and 1925; Margaret (Maggie) Doyle died between 1925 and 1930, and that Winnie was married sometime after 1925.  I have found a couple of options for Patrick’s death certificate on FamilySearch.org, and will be ordering the microfilm.  Fingers crossed.

Developing a timeline database has helped me immensely on a family member I thought I knew pretty well.  Although I had much of this information, pulling it into a database gives a whole different perspective.  I may now expand on the database (or develop a new one) by adding additional family members as well as historical/economic events.

Phyllis (Jule) Legare was a speaker at Introductory Genealogy and Beyond, a spring series offered by the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society and the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.  The last two sessions in this series will be held at the Free Lance Star building, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, VA.

April 27, 2013 – Session I - Probate/Courthouse Records: Understanding Them and Locating them, and Session II – Civil War Research

May 11, 2013 – Session I – DNA in Genealogy, and Session II – Continuing the Family Legacy: Honoring Heritage through Lineage Societies

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fredericksburg VA Marriage Records for 1988

This morning we added 287 records to the restricted online database that includes scanned original images at the Fredericksburg, VA Circuit Court. Their index now covers 1988 – present. Contact the court clerk to find out how to access these records.

They are pulling us off the marriage index project because they want us to develop a database for wills.  So many people are researching wills the court clerk feels it would be helpful to have them indexed and digitized.  That project will be interesting, although we are concerned about our efficiency as we might be tempted to stop and read some of the more interesting ones. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Emma’s Story… As I know it today

I imagine the Manhattan apartment was small.  Her father was a harness maker; her ever-pregnant mother kept house.  Emma was the ninth (or tenth) child born to Joseph and Catherine Kurtz Nunn.

Mrs. H. Hebeler of 1804 3rd Avenue delivered Emma at the family’s 2030 First Avenue, Manhattan, New York apartment on 8 February 1899.  Mrs. Hebeler also delivered my grandfather, Harry. At that time, 1890, Mrs. Hebeler lived at 1810 Third Avenue.  I am grateful she registered the births.

Birth Certificate for Emma Nunn

I cannot imagine how Emma, at 15 months, felt when strangers came into her home, scooped her up and drove her to an orphanage far away from Manhattan.  Emma was too young to understand that her father had just died and her mother was in an institution following the birth of her tenth (or 11th) child.  I suspect the absence of parents didn’t have a great impact on Emma since her sister Elizabeth was there to give her good care.  Elizabeth, age 14, kept her family intact until the New York Department of Charities received notification of “destitute children.” The children, with the exception of Elizabeth, were then taken from their home and sent Upstate to Peekskill, New York.  The City of New York paid 38 cents a day for Emma’s care.

I have no idea what life was like for Emma at St. Joseph’s Home.  Nor do I know if the quality of life offered at St. Joseph’s was better than what her life would have been like if she remained in Manhattan.  I do know she developed health issues because in 1910 she was an inmate at St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains. By 1920 Emma lived with her sister Elizabeth Nunn Siebert in the Bronx and was working at a press.

On 8 April 1923 Emma married George W. Dorn (b: 1903). George worked as a gem polisher; Emma was an embroiderer.  The couple lived in the Bronx.  I believe that George and Emma had two children: Jean b: 1931 and George, Jr. b: 1935.  

George Dorn died 17 May 1952; Emma (Nunn) Dorn died 18 May 1959. They are both buried in Calvary Cemetery, Third Calvary, Section 22, Range 3, Plot K, Graves 5-7, Woodside, Queens, New York.

I believe that George Dorn was the son of George (b: 1876) and Margaret (Winters) Dorn (b: 1877).  George and Margaret had four children: Nicholas b: 1901. George b: 1903, John b: 1905 and Madeline b: 1907.

The original working title for this entry was: In pursuit of the Dorns.  I have been researching George Dorn’s side trying to make sense of the Dorn family bible pages I have. To this point it is still a tangled mess.  Consequently I decided to develop Emma’s story.

I plan to fill in more details of Emma’s life as time goes on. It would be wonderful to connect with Dorn cousins who would be able to help immensely with the story of her later years.  Rest in peace, Emma.   

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fredericksburg, VA City Directories 1965-1997

I volunteer at the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc (HFFI); today I was asked to organize and catalogue their research library collection.   In that collection is a set of Fredericksburg City Directories covering most years 1965 through 1997, which nicely complements Ancestry's collection of Fredericksburg 1944-1959. 

I am happy to do look-ups for anyone needing information on people/businesses during the above years.  Previously I organized and catalogued HFFI's research files. Am happy to do look-ups there as well.