Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When wireless devices need batteries, think Eneloop

Over the years I've gone through a lot of batteries for my wireless keyboards and wireless mice.  At work, the department bought me a package of name-brand rechargeable batteries and a charger, but I have not been impressed with how well those batteries recharge or how long they last before needing to recharge again. 

So when I decided to replace my usual batteries with rechargeables for my home computer keyboard and mouse, I did some research into the best options.  All of the most favorable reviews pointed me toward the Panasonic Eneloops (originally a Sanyo product). 

While there are different varieties of these (Lite, Pro, etc.), the regular version seemed to suit me fine.  I ordered these online on Amazon, and bought enough batteries so that I would always have 4 in the charger ready to use, while the other 4 were in the keyboard and mouse. 

These are rated for 2100 recharge cycles, and after 5 years, should still be able to be recharged up to 70% of capacity.  Even if I recharged them once a week (and in reality, I don't need to recharge them but perhaps every 2 weeks), they would arguably last 40 years. 

I think these have paid for themselves in only a few months, and I am quite happy with the switch from disposables to these Eneloop rechargeables.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Methodology - Jumping to grandparents and back again

Real genealogical research rarely resembles the pure idea of starting with an individual and working backwards one generation at a time. On occasion, you may jump to the side (say, to a sibling), or even two steps back (to possible grandparents) before filling in the generations you need. 

Today, I ran into a case on Facebook where someone was looking for a Benjamin Franklin Cummings.  The given information was that his son was born in Walnut Shade in Taney County, Missouri, and that Benjamin was born in approximately 1879 in Missouri.

Could we find the parents of Benjamin Franklin Cummings?

A search of Find A Grave quickly located a Benjamin Franklin Cummings buried in Walnut Shade, with a tombstone photo indicating a birth of May 28, 1878.  The burial was in the "Cummings Cemetery". 

Immediately I was struck with wondering who else was buried in that same cemetery.  His parents, possibly?  Find A Grave had 6 burials there, and two others were Captain Vincent Monroe Cummings (born 1826) and Henrietta Mooney Cummings (born 1827).

At first, without much thought, I jumped to the idea that they were the parents of Benjamin F. Cummings.  But I suddenly realized that Henrietta was more than 50 years older than Benjamin, and that Vincent and Henrietta were actually better candidates for being Benjamin's paternal grandparents.  If so, I had the grandparents, but not the intervening generation.

Given that Benjamin was listed as being born in 1878, I expected to find him in the 1880 census, hopefully with his parents.  And soon I found a Benj. F. Cummings in Stone County, Missouri, age 2.  A look at Missouri maps let me know that Stone County was adjacent to Taney County.

And the Stone County 2-year-old had a 5-month-old sister named Heneritt.  Not a surprising name if her paternal grandmother was named Henrietta.

The parents of Benj. F. and Heneritt were 28-year-old Jas. and his wife Elija.  Now all I needed to do was to look in the 1870 Missouri census to find an 18-year-old James Cummings in the home of Vincent and Henrietta Cummings.  And there in 1870 Taney County were Vincent and Henrietta Cummins, with a number of children, including 18-year-old James.  Another child of Vincent and Henrietta was 15-year-old Ruben, and in the 1880 census, 26-year-old Ruben Cummings and his wife were living next door to James and Elija. 

A good example, I think, of how you may find the grandparents first, which then helps you find the parents.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Finding and Documenting African-American Families (July 20-25, 2014)

My friends J. Mark Lowe and Deborah Abbott are teaching 4 and a half days of workshops on the subject of "Finding and Documenting African-American Families".  For more information, visit www.gripitt.org.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The mystery of Dorit Kum, aka Darr Imon

Quite recently, someone posted a death certificate (they didn't say from where, but probably from a New England state), where they were trying to puzzle out the mother's name.  Half of those guessing opted for "Dorit Kum".

The other half of us had a different idea.  But before I reveal that one, I should mention that I have also looked to see if there are any records for a Dorit Kum.  I checked FamilySearch and Ancestry.com.  Nothing popped up in FamilySearch, but one Dorit Kum popped up in Ancestry, and it happens that she was listed as the mother on a death certificate for a North Carolina death.  I looked at that image, too.

Two different Dorit Kums?  Whose only fact in common (their only discoverable fact of any kind) was being the mother of a deceased individual?  I did some more digging, and discovered a woman named Darr Imon.  She too was the mother of someone who had passed.

Alas, I would wager that all three women were the same, but not in the sense that they were an actual human being.

No, I feel quite confident that the name of the mother on each death certificate was, in actuality, "Don't know".

As my good friend Cyndi Ingle might say, it's truly best not to overthink what you see handwritten on a genealogical document. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Why Copyright Is Important to Me

In a recent posting to his blog, James Tanner writes: "I am talking about all the other stuff, blog posts, notes on family trees, biographies, surname books etc. that have absolutely no expectation of making a dime for their authors. What then is the benefit of copyright to these people?"

First, all the stuff that I write on my blog may not pay me *directly*, but may pay me *indirectly*, by enhancing my reputation, so that societies may pay me to speak, and publishers may pay me to write.

Second, I have the right to *control* how my copyrightable material gets used.  The reality is, there are individuals and organizations who I support, and individuals and organizations who I do not support.  If someone I support asks me to use my material, I may happily give them permission.  If someone I do not support asks me, I may choose to refuse.  Without copyright protection, I would not have this option. 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Expertise is Neither Dead nor Sequestered

In a very recent posting on his own blog, James Tanner wrote a response to a posting by Michael J. Leclerc, who himself was following up on an article in The Federalist by Tom Nichols.  (Are you with me so far?)

In a nutshell, Nichols was lamenting that the print-world distinction between expert opinions and general public opinions was being erased by the Web, which leveled the playing field for access to eyeballs.  As an academic librarian, I fully understand his concern.  Pre-Web, students had *some* reason to believe that the material that they found in libraries, in other words, material published in books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, had been vetted by professional publishers and editors and librarians, and therefore, these professional gatekeepers kept out uninformed opinions to the extent possible in a free society.  In a Web world, we academic librarians have to explain to students that it falls to them to use their critical thinking skills to evaluate the information that they find online, and that anyone (and we do mean *anyone*) can post an opinion on a blog (yes, I recognize the irony that I'm posting this on my own blog) or on a message forum.  But just because everything now can be found in the same "place" (the Web), does not mean that it is all of equal research value (or of equal educational value). 

My friend Michael built upon Nichols' work by commenting that here in the world of genealogical research, anyone can now post online any genealogical conclusion that they choose, even without a shred of evidence to support it, and that anyone who criticizes them for doing so is often labeled "elitist" (or referred to in similar terms).  You can hear the arguments: It's all opinion, after all, and one opinion is just as good as another.  It's just a hobby, I shouldn't have to cite my sources.

And now James Tanner has added his own views, agreeing in part with Michael, but claiming that the experts themselves are part of the problem, because they want credit for the research that they do (imagine that!), because the scholarly genealogical publications are "inaccessible" (Translation: They aren't made freely available on the Web, despite the fact that they are probably no farther than a short drive to a nearby large library for most people), and because the authors of the articles claim a copyright.  As one of my research institution's copyright librarians, I can assure pretty much anyone that a research article deserves copyright, and nobody should be criticized for asserting the rights that they deserve.

James takes experts to task by saying "I would suggest that those same experts realize that they have a duty and an opportunity to teach others."  Yes, James, we do, and we fulfill that duty when we publish our copyrighted material in journals and magazines or blogs or when we present at national, state, and local conferences.  But we have no duty to do all of this for free, or to do it all online.

We also have no duty to give up our copyright to our own materials, because there are times when we need to be financially rewarded for what we do, there are times when we want (and fully deserve) credit for what we do, and there are times when we want to control, to the legal extent possible, the use of our material.  James says "Any attempt to copy the research is met with hostility. This is true of many (if not most) academic journals."  No, what is met with hostility is not when people copy an article for their personal educational use (which almost always falls well within the U.S. fair use guidelines).  What is met with hostility is when people *publish* someone else's copyrighted material without permission, because that's a violation of copyright. 

People *do* still become educated by subscribing to magazines and journals, and if they can't afford them, then, as a librarian, I do suggest that they discover the nearest library that subscribes on their behalf.   I'm not the first to point this out.  Janis Gilmore did so in a comment response to James' article.  James responded with the idea that it's hard to get new genealogists to look at published print books and journals.  This is the fault of the experts?  No, this is the fault of those who think that education is not worth the trouble of visiting a library in person.  It's not all online, and that's true both of genealogical records *and* of genealogical educational materials.  The sooner that new genealogists learn this, the quicker that they'll broaden their educational horizons. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Martin - personal trees and unified trees

So far, my family tree experiment has not garnered any responses from cousins on my Smith line, so I'm continuing with my Martin line:

My mother, Altha Corinne Martin (she's listed as Alta Corene Martin on her birth certificate), was born in Moon Township (near Chappells), Newberry County, South Carolina, on 19 December 1920.  She died in Newberry, Newberry County, South Carolina, 16 June 2007.  She lived her early life in Newberry County until she met and married my father, and after World War II she and Dad lived in East Orange until 1960, when they returned to Newberry County.  She lived there until her death.

She was the youngest child of George Washington Martin, born 12 January 1882 in Edgefield County, South Carolina, who died 12 November 1964 in Newberry.  He lived most of his life in Edgefield County and Newberry County.

Granddaddy Martin was the son of Edmon Manley Martin, who lived primarily in Edgefield District/County from about 1827 until his death between 1894 and 1900.  His burial location has not yet been located.

Edmon was the son of James S. Martin, who lived in the Pleasant Lane area of Edgefield District/County.  James was born about 1797 and died after 1880.

When I added Edmon Manley Martin to my MyHeritage tree, I was immediately notified that there were two potential matches to other trees.  One was from a person I didn't know (but who definitely had the right wife and children for Edmon), and the other was from a tree maintained by my first cousin once removed, James (I didn't know he had put up a family tree).  I confirmed the match for these two trees.  I then synced my updates to my Family Tree Builder tree on my Mac.

Adding my Martins to my Ancestry tree, I encountered a number of helpful hints (both records and family trees).  I added the records that matched, again keeping in mind that I would need to follow up on the trees belonging to other people at a later date.

I added the Martins to WeRelate, but there were no matches.

I went to WikiTree to add the Martins.  When I went to enter a death date for Edmon Manley Martin, I found that I could not enter a range (that he died between 1894 and 1900).  I left it as "after 1894" for now.  So far, no matches for my Martins on WikiTree.

I completed my Martin updates by going to FamilySearch and adding sources to the Martins that I had previously entered.