04 September 2018

Those Crazy Spammers

For unknown reasons, I've suddenly been subjected to a ton of spam comments on this blog. These spammers are not very bright, as comments here are moderated and do not appear unless approved. Spam comments do not get approved! Nevertheless, it's a waste of time to have to deal with this garbage, so I am temporarily turning off comments. Sorry.

19 December 2017

Avoiding Genealogy Mistakes

According to Legacy Family Tree some of the top genealogy mistakes are believing family myths, believing that family trees online are accurate, thinking that people with the same name are the same person, and believing that all original family records are accurate.

When I first started researching my family history, I made some of these mistakes, and had to go to a lot of work later to correct them. I have also corresponded with people researching lines that are connected to mine, and learned that many of them have run into problems as a result of mistakes like this.
  • Family Myths
For many people, the family legend that they have Native American ancestry is a source of pride. Many families think they are descended from, or closely related to, certain well-known historical figures. Others have an interesting but undocumented story about an ancestor's adventures, achievements, or crimes.

The origin of these stories is usually unknown, but they have been passed along for several generations, and are accepted as true. Until someone starts looking for proof and discovers that there is no truth behind the myth.

Now that DNA testing has become accessible, it is fairly easy to find out something about one's geographic or ethnic background. In some cases it is also possible to use DNA information to find living relatives who can provide important information. Other beliefs need to be tested through careful research.
  • Online Trees
Unfortunately, many people post family trees online without checking to see whether they are true. They may have believed an old family myth. They may have copied their information from someone else who didn't do accurate research. They may have connected people with similar names who aren't really connected. They may have accidentally inserted typing mistakes which then get copied and perpetuated by others. In some cases, they haven't even applied basic logic (such as listing someone with a death date before their birth date).

When using family trees or anecdotes posted online by other people, take a good, hard look at their sources. Did this information come from reliable sources? Can you reproduce some or all of their research. If they don't list sources, it's better not to use the information unless you can verify it yourself.
  • Some Name, Same Person?
This one can be crazy-making. It's not at all unusual to find several people with similar names, all about the same age, all living in the same area. Even a name that seems very unusual may have been used by more than one person. Sometimes cousins will have the same name because they were named after the same ancestor. A nephew may have been named after his uncle. Just checking to see if their parents, spouses, or children also had similar names doesn't always help. It's not that unusual to find several men named William or John who were the sons of men names William or John, and who all had wives named Sarah or Mary. I've seen cases where people thought a father and son were the same person because they had the same name and married women with similar names. I found one instance where a woman divorced her husband and married his father, who had the same name.

It's important to take discrepancies seriously. Different birth dates, different professions, different family structures -- any differences at all should be thoroughly investigated before assuming that this John Smith is really the same as that John Smith.
  • Original Family Records
Family Bibles are often seen as authoritative sources for information. Often they are. But in many cases they are inaccurate, because the person recording the information made mistakes. In many cases, events like marriages and births were not written down as they occurred, but were listed much later, from memory.

People sometimes write the wrong dates (or even the wrong names) on the back of photos because they are working from a flawed memory -- or just guessing. Marriage and birth announcements sometimes have intentionally fudged dates. Letters are prone to all the same mistakes (and sometimes deliberate deceptions) as anything else. Death certificates contain information supplied by informants who may not really know what they think they know. Even grave stones have been found to have wrong information carved on them.

Again, research is the key. Compare family records with official records, and compare several different sources with each other.

29 December 2016

Newcomb Updates

From time to time, I upload my most current database to the WorldConnect project at RootsWeb. This is a free resource!

You can find my file here.

UPDATE: RootsWeb made some big changes in the way the WorldConnect project is handled. It is no longer possible to update an existing database! To prevent any errors or other outdated information from being perpetuated, I had them deleted my database from their site.

22 August 2016

Philetus/Miletus Newcomb, born 1798

The old Newcomb genealogies list Capt. Philetus Newcomb, the son of Doctor Luther Newcomb and Anna Salisbury (out of wedlock). He married Rhoda Hayes in 1820, and they had several children prior to his death in 1837.

I now believe his correct name was Miletus, not Philetus.

The headstone in Gaffield Cemetery says Miletus.

He had a son named Miletus, and that son also had a son named Miletus.

There is a military service card from the "Register of officers terminated prior to Jan. 1858" listing a Capt. Miletus Newcomb.

The 1830 U.S. Census for Wilmington NY lists a Miletus Newcomb with five young children and an adult female in his houshold.

There is a birth record for Miletus Salisbury, born December 28, 1798, in Brattleboro VT, mother's name Anna, father's name Newcomb Salisbury, father's occupation doctor.

My conclusion is that his name was Miletus. The confusion seems to have come about because Miletus and Philetus rhyme, and because there was a Philetus Newcomb of about the same age who also married a woman named Rhoda. All those similar names can be confusing.

07 May 2016

Why I Didn't Reply to Your Email

I recently got an email from someone who thinks she might be related to me. I wanted to reply to her, but unfortunately she had somehow sent me a message without including her return email address.

This happens all too often.

If you contacted me and I didn't answer, it's probably because your contact information was missing. It's always a good idea to add your email address to your signature to make sure I will have it even if it is somehow missing from the "reply to" field.

08 March 2015

How to Begin Researching Your Family History

By guest blogger Suzie Kolber

Studying one’s past can be an exciting adventure. You never know what stories and facts you will learn about your family genealogy during the process. One of the ways that you can make this task easier is by creating a visual “map” that you can follow during your research phase.

Collect the Information That You Know

Begin by writing down everything you know about your family history. Start with your parents and grandparents and work your way back. See how far back into your ancestry you can go just based on the information you have. If you are lucky enough to still have great-grandparents living, you may already have basic data about four or five generations. The most important information and often the easiest to collect are the names of your ancestors. Even if this is all you have to go on, you have a good start. Once you have listed all of the information that you have currently available, now is the time to organize it into a visual format.

Creating a Family Tree

As you delve deeper into your family history, it will be easy to get confused. This is especially true if you have people with the same names. Take the time to write your basic information down into a format that is easy to read and visually pleasing. You may wonder why it is important to include this step. The reason is that it helps you keep the information straight in your mind. While it is easy in the beginning to remember who you are researching because you either know the person or have heard stories about him or her, as you move farther back into your past, it becomes more difficult. These people become just names on a page and it can get confusing. A family tree allows you to stay organized.

Choosing a Family Tree

Numerous templates are available to help you organize your information. Each one is designed a different way to appeal to various styles of researchers. Some are extremely simple and only include names while others provide room for more elaborate details. The first decision is how many generations you want on your family tree. To begin your research, you may want to start with a four or five generation family tree. Many of these templates give you room to write birth and death dates, dates of marriage and even locations. Since you probably know more information about recent ancestors, this is a good option for storing that data. As you move farther back into your family history, you may want to use an eight- or nine-generation template. This allows you to see more members at a glance without including a lot of information. These templates come in various styles to fit your needs. Some common options include circular, hourglass and bowtie shapes. The one you choose depends on what is most visually pleasing to you. Researching your family history can be challenging and a lengthy process. Begin by organizing your information into a family tree and it will make the task much easier.

Suzie Kolber created http://obituarieshelp.org/free_printable_blank_family_tree.html to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects.  The site offers the largest offering of family tree charts online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.

17 September 2014

Your Family Photos

A recent post on "For Better -- Or What?" reminds us of the importance of labeling family photos. Without labels, future generations will not know who is who. Even if you took the picture, the day is likely to come when you can't quite remember when this was taken or exactly where you were. Photos should be labeled with the names of all the people in the picture, the date the picture was taken, and the location. If you have room, include additional details about what made the event special. Your descendants are much more likely to appreciate and keep family photos if they include meaningful information.