Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Philadelphia, PA 1940 Marriages

One reason for my blog silence the last couple of weeks is we have been working overtime on your volunteer project of digitizing marriage records at Fredericksburg, VA Circuit Court.

After a month’s hiatus while the circuit court employees got settled into their spacious office space in the new courthouse, we were called back to work on September 12.  That day we digitized 285 1941 marriages, coming down from the 335 1942 marriages done at the end of July.

Easy street we thought.  We knew as we went back in time we would have fewer marriages (less population), and could then possibly digitize two years each week.  Wrong.

Our mouths dropped when we asked to see the boxes of 1940 marriages, thinking that might be the year we could start doing multiple years in one morning.

The most archive boxes we had faced previously was three.  For 1939 and 1940, each of those years had TEN archive boxes.

We did not plan on the effect the war in Europe would have on American couples.  That, and the fact that Virginia is a Gretna Green, and Fredericksburg is easily accessible by rail, and the Court only three blocks from the station, created a perfect storm of marriages.

It took us five hours of steady work just to sort the 1,599 marriages for 1940 into piles of 100s.  It took another four mornings of 3-4 hours each to digitize those.  As we plugged along, the Circuit Court Clerk stopped by and said, “Just think how great this information will be for genealogists.”  We agreed. That is why we were there.

Several days were heavy traffic days, the court overrun with people wanting marriage licenses. The clerk at the time cried out for more help; the circuit court was open on Saturdays to accommodate the crowds.  On Saturday, July 27, for example, the circuit court processed 69 marriage licenses. Another reason for the rush was that starting in August 1940 Virginia required blood tests. Consequently, approximately 1450 licenses were processed by the end of July, with only about 150 for the rest of the year.

These are not Virginia people.  What we noticed as we worked our way through 1940 is many, many couples were from Philadelphia, PA.  If your ancestors lived and worked in Philadelphia in the late 1930s, you just might find their marriage license in Fredericksburg, VA.  Of course there are many other states represented as well, but Philly really stood out in this group.  We shall see what information the 1,000+ 1939 licenses bring us. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Monographs – A way to share

We like to produce monographs of our research.  According to Merriam-Webster, a monograph is, “a learned treatise on a small area of learning.”  In other words, take one family line, follow it, include photos, social, cultural, religious, geographic information about that particular family, and write up that research in a way that makes interesting reading. 

It is not as hard as you might think, and it is a perfect way to share your research to date.  Everyone knows genealogy research is never done. So publish now what you have!

As I ready my next monograph for publication, I came across a handout I received from Patricia Law Hatcher, CG, FASG in 2004 titled, Monographs: Reviving a Respected Publishing Format.

In a nutshell, she advises to keep the topic focused. Not easy when you have lots of branches on that family tree. But your monograph could be: “extended biographies, documentary transcriptions of diaries, limited pedigrees, family that turn out to not be attached to your family tree, and research-in-progress.” 

There is a number of genealogical self-publishing printing companies sprouting up. If you decide to go this route, research these carefully. We like to print an original ourselves on 28 or 30 pound paper. We then take it to the local PostNet or Staples, and give them our 28 or 30 pound paper on which to run the copies.  We usually run any pages with color photos ourselves since sometimes copy centers don’t have the best color cartridges installed.  Another option is we remove the pages with the color photos and pay to have them run separately.  But we always supply our own paper.  After checking each set one page at a time, we then have the copy center bind them. 

Check the pages:  When I was producing Voices of our Past, the oral history project for the Ulysses Historical Society, I had Staples make the copies.  I brought the six sets of 334 pages each home and proceeded to look at every page. On the third set, a quarter the way through, something had gotten onto the drum, and the bottom half of all the pages were blank. I had to go back over and have those copies rerun. Not a fun time.

The title: If you want researchers to find your family, don’t title it something like, The Branches on my Family Tree.  A better title includes the family name and geographic place.  One of my monographs has the title: The Tuckers of Enfield, New York. Include all major surnames on the title page. 

The Devil is in the Details: Develop a table of contents and an index.  When developing your index think like a researcher. If your family had a business, or you talked about a number of farms, index those. Geographic areas in your monograph should also be indexed.

How Many? Before going to print think about the number of copies you will need. How many family members will want a copy of your research? Is there an historical society or library that would want one or more copies?  And there is the Family History Library, the Library of Congress and the DAR Library. Do check their submission guidelines. Some accept only unbound works.

Once the finished product is in your hands, you will have such a feeling of accomplishment.  And it is rewarding to receive all those heartfelt thank you notes from the repositories to which you sent your finished product.

Would love to hear success stories!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Family Search Family Trees – A Problem

The new FamilySearch.org website has a feature in which you can build your family tree. It is quite sophisticated in that it allows/encourages/facilitates genealogists to add sources, photos, stories, and in time audio clips.

My hubby volunteers at the Family History Center and regularly takes their Saturday classes in order to be on the cutting edge of the new features offered at the FamilySearch site.

One of the family tree features is when you put in a name, the site searches through its “zillion” records to see if there is a match. If so, it gives you the list and if your guy is there, you can then attach that person and all its research to your family tree.  Neat, huh?

Yesterday we found this was not so neat.

Another feature is you can check a “Watch” box that will tell you if anyone has made changes to your family tree.  You can then check those changes and if incorrect, you can contact the person making the changes. If there is a dispute, Family Search will arbitrate.

Yesterday the “Watch” feature notified hubby of changes to his relative Abraham Brown. Now realize, Abraham was a challenge to research, but trips to the Westchester, NY historical society and to Scranton, PA we were finally able to document that Abraham was indeed born in Westchester County, New York.  And from there hubby carefully researched and documented Abraham’s family that ended up in hubby’s home town of Newfield, New York.

Hubby was quite surprised to see that his information on Family Search was now changed to show his Abraham Brown was born in Rhode Island. Hubby contacted the person making the changes as no citation was supplied.  The man replied he had just taken the information off Ancestry.com!!!  OMG – when will people learn that information without citation is fantasy, and research is needed!!!!!

Bottom line is the man who linked the Rhode Island Abraham Brown to hubby’s Abraham Brown admitted his was a different one.

Not the end of the story. Hubby found that also attached to his family line were all the children of the RI Abraham Brown that had similar birth dates.  Hubby spent all afternoon correcting his family tree removing all the erroneous information.

To say the least, hubby was not a happy camper.  FamilySearch.org has to come up with a better way for linking families.   We were great advocates but now are discouraged with that site.  We have better things to do with our time than spend it correcting wrong data.