Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Geography and Genealogy

Geography can play an important role in genealogical research. A little geographical knowledge about the places where your ancestors lived can be important in tracking your ancestor. Knowing something about the region can lead us to ask questions we wouldn't ask if we have no idea how the places in our ancestors lives are related. When we know where a town is located in its county, we have clues to their lives not found in most genealogical record sources. It's always possible to encounter a research question that can't be answered by the normal sources and can only be answered by a geographical clue.

Very few beginning, or even more experienced, genealogists will know enough about the geography of a region they've never lived in or visited to understand the importance of a geographical clue we might trip over. Asking questions about the geography of a place is an important part of research. If you don't have access to someone who has lived in the area all their life, geography books and maps of the regions are helpful.

Details, such as where they went to church, which cemetery they used to bury their dead, how and where they took their crops to market, and which rivers and trails were commonly used for migration, can give you clues to the identity of your ancestor. Studying the history and geography of a region are important to get a feel for the region. When was the county formed? Is there a closer town in another county where they might have sold their goods? If they were farmers, where is the closest grain elevator to their farm? If he was a blacksmith, did he travel around to ply his trade, or did the business come to him? I'm sure you can think of dozens more questions to answer if you think about it.

This is a hypothetical situation. The time is now:

Joseph Ridell and his wife, Elizabeth, are our research subjects. He was born 2 Jul 1849 in Seneca County, Ohio; died 10 Jan 1901, in Clyde, Ohio. We don't know where he was buried. Elizabeth wrote a letter to their daughter, Ruth Hutchins. Ruth is the researcher's grandmother. The envelope was missing from the letter, so there was no way to know what the subject's home address was at the time.

The letter went on to say that Joseph had gone into Clyde for supplies (this tells us he didn't live in Clyde, but probably pretty close), and he had dropped over dead of a heart attack. Elizabeth asked Ruth if she could come to live with her family in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. We don't know if she came to live with Ruth and her family. The researcher did learn Ruth was born 10 Feb 1880 in Seneca County, Ohio; died 30 Nov 1966, in Sandusky County, Ohio. These dates were found in Elizabeth's obituary published in The Fremont News Messenger. Plans for interment we not decided upon at the time the obituary ran in the paper. There was no other reference to where she would be buried in any subsequent issues of the newspaper.

We know the researcher's father was born in Saginaw, Michigan on 6 Oct 1905, died in Saginaw, and buried there not far from the researcher's grandparents. The researcher has lived in Saginaw all his life and has never visited Ohio.

The question is, where are Joseph and Elizabeth buried? Now, we know all the important dates and could stop here. But this researcher wanted to know everything he could find out about Joseph and Elizabeth, so he decided to examine the geography closer.

The researcher knew Joseph had died in Clyde, Ohio, but had no idea what county Clyde might be in. He knew his grandparents lived in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and moved up to Saginaw, Michigan before 15 Aug 1901, since an aunt had been born in Saginaw on that date. Both Joseph and Elizabeth was born in Seneca County, Ohio. Elizabeth died in Sandusky County, Ohio. Is Upper Sandusky in Sandusky County?

Our researcher takes a trip to the library. There, he found maps that told him how the counties relate to each other. All three are fairly close together, but Sandusky and Wyandot don't have a common border, Seneca is between them. Fremont is the county seat of Sandusky county, and Tiffin is the county seat of Seneca county. He decides to concentrate on these two counties for now.

They were both born in Seneca County, so our researcher investigated the Tiffin Adviser Tribune. There he found not only Joseph's obituary, but also Elizabeth's obituary. In the obituaries were Elizabeth's maiden name, the names of their 6 children, their places of residence, and number of grandchildren, but still no place where they were buried. Elizabeth's obituary mentioned she had been a life-long member of the Adams Lutheran Church, but no location for the church.

The researcher decided to investigate Seneca County first since they were both born in Seneca county. Searching, he found the Adams Lutheran Church in Adams Twp., Seneca county, Ohio. Now the church is known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The Adams Lutheran Cemetery, which is located on the south side of the church, is the location of the subjects' burial.

There are still many questions that could be answered by property records, vital records, and ect. My purpose with this exercise was to create interest in geographical research. We still haven't found the address the subjects were living at the time of Joseph's death. (Joseph, Elizabeth, ect. are fiction, they do not exist; I am familiar with Adams Twp., Seneca, Ohio).

Have fun with your geographical research.

Dale L. Edwards

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Determining Relationships

When two people have one or more ancestors in common, they are related. The number of generations separating them determines their relationship. The children of two siblings have the same grandparents. They are also first cousins (1c). A cousin is the child of an aunt or uncle. In earlier times a cousin could be a kinsman, close relative, or friend. A kinsman could be either a male relative, or a man sharing the same racial, cultural, or national background as another. A grandparent is the parent of one's mother or father; a grandmother or grandfather.

The children of first cousins are second cousins (2c). The relationships start getting tricky at this point. A first cousin is a first cousin once removed (1c1r) to the child of their first cousin. Removed is the number of generation(s) separating two people. If they are separated by 3 generations, they are 1c3r. A second cousin is separated by 3 generations from a younger relative. That makes them 2c3r. I find this all very confusing, so here is a link to an interactive relationship chart.

As an example we'll examine the relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Princess Diana is 12 generations from James I, King of England (James VI, King of Scotland). Prince Charles and King James are 13 generations apart. The first generation after James is a brother-sister relationship. Princess Diana is 11 generations removed while Prince Charles is 12 generations removed. This makes Diana an 11th cousin once removed (11c1r) of her husband.

Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Gerald R. Ford are related to Edward III. This is a chart of their relationship:

Prince Charles and Tomas Jefferson are 13c8r
Prince Charles and James Madison are 17c4r
Prince Charles and Gerald R. Ford are 19c2r
Princess Diana and Thomas Jefferson are 13c7r
Princess Diana and James Madison are 17c3r
Princess Diana and Gerald R. Ford are 19c1r

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Gerald R Ford are also cousins through their relationship to Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III. This a chart of their relationship:

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are 13c4r
Thomas Jefferson and Gerald R. Ford are 13c6r
James Madison and Gerald R. Ford are 14c2

The direct line of ancestors begin with an individual's parents and extend to many greatgrandparents (12g gp, 20g gp, and beyond). The descendants of siblings (uncles and aunts) are always related as nephews and nieces whether they are 2 or even 32 generations removed. This shows the direct relationship between Edward I and 5 of his famous descendants:

Prince Charles 22nd great-grandson (22 ggson)
Princess Diana 21st great-granddaughter (21 ggdau)
Thomas Jefferson 14th great-grandson (14 ggson)
James Madison 19th great-grandson (19 ggson)
Gerald R. Ford 20th great-grandson (20 ggson)

This is a chart of how 5 generations descended from brothers are related:

1. George brothers 1. Ben
2. Henry 1c 2. Arthur
3. Thomas 2c 3. Caleb
4. Adam 3c 4. Ralph
5. Wesley 4c 5. David

This chart shows how the generations are related:

2g grandfather George <> Wesley 2g grandson
1c1r Henry <> Caleb 1c1r
2c2r Caleb <> Wesley 2c2r
2g uncle George <> David 2g nephew
1c3r Arthur <> Wesley 1c3r

More free charts and forms are found at Dale's Geneaology List. The link is in the sidebar.

Dale L. Edwards

Monday, July 17, 2006

Dates and Genealogy

Dates are so important, it's prudent to assign an approximate date to individuals with no dates. This is especially important when several individuals bear the same name. Using approximate dates simplifies searching. When there are many, or even two, individuals with the same name, an approximate date quickly helps determine which individual
could be the right ancestor. When making the approximation, take into consideration all dates pertaining to the individual's family. These family dates are clues to birth, marriage, and death dates.

All approximations should be marked with either brackets or something like bef, aft, or abt, which stand for before, after, and about. This marks these dates as approximations. Consider the family as a whole, not just as individuals. "Very often the relation of dates determine or negate the possibility of an alleged line of descent or provide clues that might otherwise elude detection." Taken from Genealogy as Pastime and Profession by Donald Lines Jacobus.

As an example, my husband's fmily had a tradition that Nancy A. Dalton was related to the Dalton Gang. Well, the Daltons did have a sister named Nancy A. Dalton, but she died before his grandfather, George Edwards, was born.

For some reason I always thought we had the same calendar throughout history. Well, I was wrong. I knew the Chinese currently use a different calendar, but for some reason I thought everyone else used the same calendar. Now, I know better.

The Julian calendar was used during the Middle Ages in Europe. By 1582 it was 10 days behind the actual date. In 1582 the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory XIII, became the calendar of Europe. However, England and her colonies didn't accept this calendar until an Act of Parliament in 1751. Ten days lost just by crossing the English Channel is unbelievable. Well, not really lost, but it must have been difficult to convert dates back and forth.

By 1752 the Julian calendar was 11 days behind the new calendar, so an Act of Parliament stipulated the 2nd of September 1752 would be followed by the 14th. In other words the 3rd of September 1752 became 14th of September 1752. People were very upset because they believed they lost 11 days out of their lives. Some even went so far as to change their birthdays so they wouldn’t seem 11 days older than they were. One example is George Washington. We all know he was born 22 February 1732. No, he was actually born 11 February 1731/32. This needs to be kept in mind when looking at birth dates of people born before 1752 and died after 1752.

For example, Ephraim Burr, by his gravestone, died 29 April 1776, aged 76 years and 13 days. Subtracting the age gives us 16 April 1700 for his birth date. To get the Old Style date we have to subtract 11 more days. His birth was not recorded but he was baptized 14 April 1700, 2 days before he was born using the New Style calendar. His birth date using Old Style is 5 April 1700.

New Year’s Day has always been the 1st of January, right? Wrong. Before 1752, the new year started on the 25th of March, or in some places, the 25th of December. The United States used only the 25th of March and the 1st of January. I'm grateful we don't have to worry about the 25th of December, too.

As long as the name of the month was used there is no real problem with the dates. May 5 is May 5 before and after 1752. However, if the number of the month was used, there could be a problem because before 1752 March was the first month of the year. March 25, 1750 would be 1/25/1750. As if it isn't hard enough to keep dates straight when ancestors have duplicate names. If your record says John Smith was born 3/15/1749, it means he was born May 15, 1749. If he was born 12/8/1732, his birth date would be January 27, 1732/1733. To make it even more confusing, someone may not know the dates changed, and wrote December 8, 1732 as 12/8/32. Now we wouldn't know his actual birth date, and need to check all the possibilities.

Check the introduction of your sources to determine if adjustments have already been made to accommodate calendar changes.

I hope I haven't completely confused you, but without this information you could be looking for the wrong birth date. It may be possible with this information to find that ancestor born before 1752 that has eluded us.

Dale L Edwards

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rome wasn't built in a day.

Don't expect to understand everything about family history right away. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day and cut yourself some slack when you feel you aren't learning fast enough. Ask questions. The only dumb question is the one we don't ask.

Break family history up into small tasks to accomplish in an hour or 15 minutes. In 15 minutes you could write a letter, add new information to the records of 1 individual. In an hour you could search for one name on the Internet, maybe 2 if you find the information you're looking for quickly. Of course, you could spend that whole hour on one name and not find anything. Large chunks of time aren't necessary to accomplish many tasks connected with family history. However, if you need to go directly to a source, you will need anywhere from all day to several days when you travel to another state or country.

When children are small, it's almost impossible to take them with you when you visit sources. Perhaps you could trade data entry with someone who is able to travel more in connection with family history for research services. There are older researchers who don't like to work with computers, and would really appreciate such an arrangement.

Include older children in cemetery searches by making a game out of it. I've known researchers who offer their children a dollar to the first one that finds the target tombstone. The reward doesn't have to be money. You know your children, and can choose an appropriate reward. If you're including family history in the family vacation, plan your time, and plan your research so the children don't get too restless.

Everyone needs to plan each research trip carefully. Make the most out of every minute of your trip. Here are some steps to plan your trip:

  1. Decide destination. (Could be just around the corner to your public library)
  2. Gather the information you'll need to take along
  3. Call to find out hours, days open, do they have the record, fees, ect.
  4. Decide when to go
  5. Pack a family history bag with the information you need, any forms you want to take along, pens, pencils, scratch paper, water, snack (to eat outside the library), and, very important, your method of choice of recording sources for any information you find.

Keeping good records is very important. You may need to find that record again for some reason. All dates and facts need to be verified with documentation. Make a copy of the record, either photocopy or by hand. Photocopying is the preferred way because errors can sneak in when copying manually from one page to another. I can't emphasize the importance of keeping good records often enough. The records need organization so they can be found again. There are many different ways to organize family history. The link at the bottom of this post connects with a list of web sites with free forms and methods of organization. There are also some fee sites, but you can usually find what you're looking for free.

Take your time, study, and play with the various forms and organization methods. Once research starts it's amazing how fast the paper piles grow. Without an organizational method you're able and want to use consistenly, it'll be a daunting task to change the way your files are organized. I know, because I face that daunting task. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't start compiling a large amount of information until I had a good way to keep track of where and when I found that information. The system has to fit you or it won't get used.

Click for forms.

Dale L. Edwards

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why Family History?

Family history is more than genealogy. Genealogy concentrates on names, dates, places, and blood relationships. Family History concentrates, not only on names, dates, places, and relationships, but tries to answer questions such as -- What were their lives like? Were they short or tall, dark haired and brown eyed or blonde and blue eyed? I know that my ancestor John Slafter came from Wales in the late 1600s. He wasn't a tall man. I don't know about his coloring, but I can guess he was fairly light haired and maybe blue eyed. I also know he had a presence about him, because someone told a story to his descendent, Rev. Edmund F. Slafter. Edmund Slafter wrote a family history about John Slafter and his descendants. In his book he wrote:

"On one occasion, at least, he is reputed to have made proof both of his personal courage and physicl strength. During his abode in Massachusetts, the forests were infested with Indians, who made frequent incursions upon the English settlements, often carrying terror and death to the cottages of the emigrants. Returning on one occasion after a brief absence, he found his home invaded by two athletic savages, whose insolent threats and gestures had put his whole household in fear of instant death. Assuming the authority which belongs to the lord of the castle, they were at once ordered to leave. Obedience to this command was haughtily refused. Fastening his eye upon the leader, the second injunction was followed, with quickness almost of lightning, by a blow from his clenched hand, put forth with all the energy of his powerful frame, which laid the savage prostrate at his feet. The other, awed by this lesson, showed only signs of fear, and with humble promises on the part of both they were permitted to depart, and never afterward ventured to repeat their visit."

The story may have grown with the retelling, but doesn't that paint a picture of a man who is secure in who he is? I can just see my ancestor as he protects his home and family.

There are many more things I know about my ancestors because Edmund wrote the stories and facts in true family history style. The first time I looked through the book I knew this was how I wanted to write about my family.

This is why I do family history in addition to genealogy.

Dale L. Edwards