Sunday, September 25, 2016

Digital genealogy organizing project Intermission 5: Records with more than one person in them

Let's face it: Most genealogical records we deal with make reference to more than one person of interest. The typical birth record may name both the individual being born and their parents. The typical marriage record will name both spouses. The typical census record will name all the people living in the same household. While there are certainly records that refer to only one person (a photo of a single individual, many military records, possibly the tombstone, just to name a few), we are normally going to be dealing with a digital image of a document that pertains to more than one person.

And this means that we have an issue when it comes to naming that digital file and filing it in one of our folders.

At least, it's an issue if we have only one digital copy of the document. But in the modern world of cheap computer storage, why would we want to limit ourselves to a single copy? I can't think of a good reason, but I'd be interested in hearing from you if you can come up with one.

So let's go forward with this idea of having multiple copies of such documents. Two copies for a married couple (let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that we're not interested in researching the witnesses or the person who conducted the ceremony).  Three copies for a birth (child plus parents, ignoring for now those records that also identify grandparents or godparents).  And possibly many copies for a census record that identifies a large number of related people.

This means that each copy can have its own name, using the name of one of the people of interest, and that each copy can be filed in the appropriate surname folder (if you are organizing by surname folder, as I am now doing).  And it means that an individual's folder can contain documents dated after their death, such as those where the individual is mentioned as a parent in a child's later death record, or where a father dies prior to the birth of their last child.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Digital genealogy organizing project Intermission 4: Thoughts about surnames

In the modern Western world we may experience some people hyphenating their names upon marriage. But apart from some celebrities adopting entirely new surnames as they enter the public sphere, our most common experience is that males have the same surname from birth to death, and females may change their surname only upon marriage.

History is messier.

Anyone who has been doing genealogical research for any significant length of time has discovered that surnames are complicated things. A person may be born with one surname and in later life adopt a new one, or at the very least a new spelling. Or they may have no consistent spelling of whatever surname they use (sometimes to blame on their illiteracy and sometimes to blame on the recorder's unfamiliarity with the surname). And, of course, there are surnames altered by immigrants as an attempt to fit in with their adopted country and to improve their chances of employment in a country that may otherwise treat non-natives from some areas of the world as being less desirable for hiring and doing business with. There are also stories of individuals adopting surname changes in order to avoid legal problems or to disassociate themselves from relatives who they are at odds with.

And we must deal with all of this as we label our digital files and folders, as part of our genealogical research. What spelling do we consistently adopt for a surname that may have spelling variations in the records? What name do we file documents under for an individual who may have changed their surname over time? (I don't have time in this posting to address the first name issue. That will have to wait for another posting.) The spelling variation that occurs only in a small percentage of records, in my opinion, can be essentially ignored, at least for purposes of creating the surname folder.

Three of my grandparents' surnames are extremely common, and as a result, are not as likely to result in spelling errors or variations: Smith, Martin, and King. While I may find different spellings for those surnames hundreds of years ago, I'm not there yet. But my 4th grandparent (Weinglass), and the remaining great-grandparents (Bannon, Bodie, Foshee, and Grodovitz) present interesting problems.

The Bodie family of South Carolina is descended from the Boddie family of North Carolina and Virginia, and even some of the South Carolina family use the Boddie spelling. The branch that left for Louisiana also spells it Boddie, and some of my direct ancestors can be found using both spellings. Because both spellings are very common, I plan to use Bodie/Boddie (while the order isn't all that important, my more immediate ancestors use the Bodie spelling) to identify that family.

Bannon is similar to Bodie in some ways, in that more recent records seem to have standardized on Bannon, while earlier records frequently have Bonnon. I plan to start by using Bannon, but I may switch to Bannon/Bonnon if I discover a large number of records with the other spelling.

Weinglass appears in a variety of spellings in the records (Weinglas, Wineglass, etc.), but all of my most recent relatives have standardized the spelling as Weinglass, so I expect to use that one for the surname folder.

Foshee is trickier. Lots of different spellings for people who are probably related to each other. Because my most recent relatives seem to have standardized on Foshee, I'll stay with that one, to keep it simple.

I have very few records for Grodovitz so far, so I will probably adopt one spelling for now, with the idea that I may need to change it if I find that another spelling is more common in the records.

My major point in this posting is that there is no hard-and-fast rule as to how to create surname folders for surnames that may appear different ways in the records, and you'll have to consider a number of factors before deciding which spelling to use and whether or not to use multiple forms of the surname. Whenever possible, keep it simple, but don't get hung up on doing it "right" the first time. It's ok to change your mind later.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Digital genealogy organizing project Step 4: Surname folders

So a few weeks ago I posted about using surname folders. It's time to go into a bit more detail about that.

Because I'm not a beginner, I don't have the luxury of creating a folder here or there as I need it.  I have already accumulated a great number of files that pertain to a variety of individuals, and even if I am starting over with my documented research, I still want to file away the things I already have.

At the same time, I don't want to create a folder for every surname in my current family tree, in part because I know that I won't have files for some of those, and in part because I'm more interested at this point in working strictly with my direct ancestral lines.

So at this point I'm going to create just enough folders to get started, giving me enough variety to organize the content that I already have (and to better document my immediate direct ancestors), but not so many that I'll have a lot of empty folders for a long time to come. A nice starter number is 8, corresponding to the surnames of my 8 great-grandparents. For my mother, her 4 grandparents were Martin, King, Bodie, and Foshee. For my father, his 4 grandparents were Smith, Weinglass, Bannon, and Grodowitz.

This structure will encourage me to move more slowly through the generations, finding all of the necessary documents for my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

My step after that will involve creating sub-folders for each individual, and naming the individual files appropriately. But that deserves its own blog post.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

A quick and easy way to show your support of my genealogy work

If you enjoy the things that I produce (books, podcasts, this blog, my face-to-face presentations, and my webinars), one way to express your support is by voting in this poll:

And thanks in advance for your support!