Monday, October 22, 2007

A variety of questions - Part 1

Tackling real-life research challenges

I am a beginning genealogy researcher trying to "reinvent" the genealogy wheel of my entire family from Europe to America.

At this point, I have over 1,500 names in the Master Family Tree (I'm using Family Tree Maker V. 16) and know that this is just under half of what probably is the total number of people & generations in my branches of the tree.

I've found mention in part of my family's notes that we go back on my mother's side to Brittany, France in 1249, but am missing the names of the next 17-18 generations from then to about the late 16th century in France to find those three hundred years of people in my mother's lineage.

When I came across your articles a few minutes ago looking up how to convert a PAF file to a PDF, or GEDCOM file format, that is how I discovered your beginning genealogy articles which look great. I hope that I will be able to further researching my Family. I need to tell you, which you already may know, that they are not all printing out

I need to figure out how to find ancestry in places like Pennsylvania for my great-great-grandfather & great-great-grandmother to determine who his parents were, where in Ireland he came from or when he immigrated to America. [I also need to know] what my great-great- grandmother's maiden name was, and where they married, had their first two children, etc.

I also have Qs about how to find records in different lands whether for Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and perhaps other countries as well once I clear up all the conundrums I'm still experiencing in tracing all the branches of my family in America.

Last but not least, I know that some of the original records of my family were destroyed due to fires, like the Great Earthquake & Fire of San Francisco, California in 1905, or the US Federal Census of 1890, or home fires where important correspondence and other documentation were stored from the 1880s onward.

How do I recreate these wheels from just a scrap of a letter [circa] 1900 to find the records that were gathered and lost in the fire?

I've hired genealogy researchers in different states to help me find lineage information on spouses of the family that cousins of mine are connected to, including Kentucky and Indiana. [I] have contacted the Kentucky Historical Society as well as the state archives and library area of the government to find records for relatives. [This is] not to mention [contacting] county libraries to see if they have any information on these generations from 1780 to 1862.

In any case, these are just some of the many things that I'm struggling with -- not only finding records, but documenting my research. I'm also not clear on what is a definitive source record versus what I'm finding written up in history books on my ancestors in different state history books -- and how to use these stories of my ancestors.

Please let me know if you can help me with my general "feeling overwhelmed" situation.

Yours is just the kind of email Ol' Myrt here loves to receive. You have plainly discussed where you are in your research, and identified areas of concern. Lacking are your 2nd great-grandparents' names and other identifying information so I may do a little tinkering around to see what I can find. Before we get started, I am compelled to explain:

NO ONE'S INHERITED FAMILY HISTORY IS 100% ACCURATE. Particularly suspect are the family notations dating back to 1249. This is most likely something copied from a book of old royal houses of Europe. BUT you did a great job recognizing you need to fill in the intervening 17-18 generations to your known ancestors.

To begin with that 13th century couple and attempt to decipher which child is yours in each generation would be impossible. Assuming each generation had 4 children that lived to bear children, and each adult child had 4 children that lived to parenthood, you can quickly see that:
  • Between 1249 and 2007, there are approximately 30 generations, at 25 years per generation.
  • The "original" circa 1249 couple could easily have over 1,024 descendants in just the first 5 generations.

Now those numbers WOULD BE overwhelming, until you realize as a genealogist, you must follow the paper trail from your parents backwards in time. There are indeed work-arounds.

Sometimes an entire line's ancestry is obscured from view for decades despite our best efforts. It is during those dry spells that we have time to compose our personal histories and organize family reunions.

Reply to Ol' Myrt here with the exact names, dates, places, spouses, and children of the those 2nd-great-grandparents mentioned in your query. Please also share details (author & title, publication date and call number) of sources already reviewed so I won't duplicate your work, but can spot-check for accuracy. This is precisely what any researcher would do if he stumbled across your compiled genealogy.

This also give Ol' Myrt here a chance to see how you are currently documenting your sources -- so I may cheer you on and perhaps provide ideas for improving citation and analysis.

Remember our immediate goal is to secure evidence in US sources to:

  • Find the town of origin in Ireland of your 2nd great-grandfather.
  • Determine the maiden name of his wife, your 2nd great-grandmother.

Please look for Part 2 in this series tomorrow. It is about "alternate sources".

Release of subsequent articles in the series will depend on feedback from you and Myrt's DearREADERS. We just need more information to be of assistance with your research challenges.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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