Monday, July 30, 2012

Comparing On-line sync Storage Offerings

The number of providers offering on-line storage with sync capability is increasing—with Google Drive being the most recent. If the options are confusing to you, then an informative article by Ellis Hamburger writing for The Verge may be the explanation you need.

The article compares 13 offering in detail and in a summary chart. Using online storage is becoming a smart choice in today’s “cloud computing” world, so this article is well-worth your attention.

Check it out at Google Drive vs. Dropbox, SkyDrive, SugarSync, and others: a cloud sync storage face-off | The Verge

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vital Record Have Their Limits

We all know what an advantage it is to get our hands on a vital record (birth, marriage, death) from a courthouse or archive. And we also all probably know how frustrating it is to look and look and not be able to find them.

James Tanner in his blog Genealogy’s Star gives some great insight into the evolution of vital records and why we are at times unsuccessful in our search for them. We all know that there was a time when civil authorities did not require the recording of births, marriages, and deaths, but we often do not stop to analyze how those requirements vary according to time and place.

Check out his article at Genealogy's Star: The Vital Record Stumbling Block

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Breaking Down Brick Walls

If you are confronted with the inevitable brick wall in you research, check out Dawn Watson’s suggestions for overcoming it in her blog Digging in the Roots. She gives four suggestions that may hold the answer. Check it out at Four Brick Wall Breakers | Digging in the Roots

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Homestead Act

The website is in the process of digitizing the homestead records for the state of Nebraska. The Fold3 Blog has an article about the project and the records being make available that will be of interest to all, but especially those who have not explored that resource.

You can find it at The Homestead Act | Fold3 Blog

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Who Has a Dog in the Hunt

I love that saying…”who has a dog in the hunt.” It is not only appealingly folksy, it is a question that all researchers need to have in mind at all times when evaluating evidence they have unearthed about their ancestors.
The expression is another way of asking what bias the provider of information may have that could affect the truthfulness of that information. Literally, the expression means that a person who has a dog participating in the hunt (for a bear, for example) has a vested interest in the outcome of the activity. That person is not unbiased…that person would like to end the hunt to his benefit. In research terms that is translated as meaning the person providing the information has a vested interest in the version of truth that the information implies. We have all seen instances of this, I am sure, but here are some examples of motivations that could influence an information provider to give a biased version of events.
Personal embarrassment: Perhaps the child born out of wedlock is too embarrassing to admit, so either a birth date is fudged or the marriage date is adjusted. And what about the suicide that may be too painful to admit actually happened to a family member? It might also be too shameful for Uncle John to admit that he was written out of his father’s will, so he tells the story of how generous his father was to him in that document. Because of prejudices at aparticular times and places in our society, an ancestor may not declare his true county of birth (on a census document, for instance). Examples could go on and on, of course, but these should serve adequately as examples.
Financial gain: This has always been a popular reason to bias the truth. Personal declarations of property values may be understated if the person fears that the information may be used as a basis for taxes. This could very well have influenced many of our ancestors’ responses to property value questions on census records. Relationships can be misstated for financial gain as well.
Opportunity or Reputation: An example of opportunity being a motive for giving false information is fibbing about age in order to enlist. Or if the person enlisted legitimately, he may report an older age in other documents simply to not appear too young or immature in a world of more mature men fighting a war. Total fabrications about experiences or who one knows or what one has done can be based on concerns about ones reputation or credibility. And those fabrications can come to us as family lore…lore we would like to believe, but which should be examined closely.
The point is that information we find about our ancestors must be scrutinized closely for the existence of bias…we must determine “who has a dog in the hunt.” This examination should be an automatic and natural part of our evidence evaluation. Determining who has something to gain from the information reported can be a big step towards getting at the truth. The possible existence of bias should also motivate us to look for corroborating evidence for any date, place, experience, story, or “fact” we find about our ancestors. Just like in a jury trial, corroborating evidence builds a case that we ultimately can be as sure of as possible.
It is sometimes difficult to believe that our dear Aunt Tillie would not be absolutely truthful in the information she gives us about her parents or grandparents…she is Aunt Tillie, after all! It is perhaps most difficult to separate the information we receive from the personality who gives it to us. And perhaps we are concern about the message we send to Aunt Tillie when we don’t take her information at face value and go off on a quest to corroborate what she gives us.
We often get totally wrapped up in the hunt for information about our ancestors, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else. But after we collect the information, the separation of truth from fiction is perhaps an even more challenging task. It requires diligence, research creativity, and an unerring dedication to the truth, as accurately as we can determine it. We must guard against the effects of bias and other foibles that can distort the history we are constructing of our families. As researchers we have an obligation to seek the truth.

(First Publishing in the Largo Leader, February, 2010)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Another Source for the US Census

If you are looking for another source for the US census images, you might try

The images are not indexed, but they are all there and you can browse them. If you know the enumeration district of interest, you can narrow your search relatively easily…but be prepared for a little work.

The viewer is rather unique in that you leaf through the census pages as if you were turning the pages of a book. It is worth a visit to the site for that experience alone.

If you have already found the image you want through another source and are not happy with the clarity, you might try this site. Check it out at United States Census : Free Texts : Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

FGS Annual Conference 29 Aug-1 Sep

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (of which PGS is a member) will hold its annual conference this year from 29 August to 1 September in Birmingham, Alabama.

The event is a big one and boasts nearly 160 educational presentations by leading genealogical experts. If you want more information you can find it at

Monday, July 16, 2012

Progress in Indexing the 1940 Census

Family Search and its volunteers have been making headway in their effort to index the 1940 census. If you have not seen it on the Family Search site yet, there is a cool graphic that shows the progress. Check it out at 1940 Census |

Saturday, July 14, 2012

War of 1812 Canada Board of Claims for Loses

The set of records for claims by Canadian’s for losses incurred during the War of 1812 is not searchable by key word, but the digitized images are free for browsing.

Even if your ancestor did not fight in the conflict, he may have filed a claim for lost property, etc. Check it out at: Results - Microform Digitization - Library and Archives Canada

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Answer to 1940 Census Question

Answer:  he might have been on vacation, on strike, on temporary layoff, etc.

See previous post for the question.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another 1940 Census Question

This is a tough one:  In what situation might a person respond that he was NOT at work, and NOT seeking work, but than he HAD a job?

See the next post for the answer.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Obstacles to Writing

Recently the Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog published an article about why we don’t write.

The article starts with recounting the pleas of several journal editors to their readers to write articles for publication. Does that sound familiar? Your Pinellas Genealogy Society leadership is constantly asking the membership to contribute articles. Not surprisingly, we are not alone.

The Midwestern Microhistory article goes into several reasons why we don’t write. They may or may not apply to all of us, but all it takes is one significant obstacle to stifle an article. The bottom line of the article is to overcome those obstacles, and it offers several good reasons to do so.

Check it out at Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog: Why We Don't Write

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Asnwer to 1940 Census Question

Answer:  That person will have "Ab" entered after his/her name.

See the previous post for the question.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Here's A 1940 Census Question

Here's a 1940 Census question to keep you on your toes:  how can you tell if a person enumerated in the  household was temporarily absent, such as in the hospital?

See the next post for the answer.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Civil War Widows’ Pension Digitization Project

This is a volunteer supported effort to ultimately digitize and make available online the nearly 1.3 million case files of the dependents of Civil War Union soldiers who applied to the federal government for pensions.

It is a multiyear project that is processing about 30,000 case files per year. Needless to say, the end is not in sight in spite of the approximately 700 monthly volunteer hours devoted to the effort. As records go on line, they are available at the website.

You can read an article about the project and see a wonder video at New National Archives Video Gives an Inside Look at the Volunteer-Supported Civil War Widows’ Pension Digitization Project