Monday, December 29, 2008

Variety of Questions - Part 1

From: Roger
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 1500 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 and generations in my branches of the tree.

I've found mentioned 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 and I hope that I will be able to further my researching my family. […] Some of these lessons I need to figure out how to find ancestry in places like PA [Pennsylvania] for my ggreat-great-grandfather & great-great-grandmother to determine who his parents were, where in Ireland he came from or when he immigrated to America and 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 in places like different states due to fires, like the Great Earthquake & Fire of SF, CA 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 from 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 (like in KY, IN, etc., and have contacted the KY Historical Society as well as the state archives and library area of the government to find records for relatives records, bible records, etc., there, not to mention county libraries too, to see if they have any information on these generations from 1780 to 1862, etc..

In any case, these are just some of the many things that I'm struggling with in not only finding records, but also in documenting my research.

I'm also not clear on what is a definitive source record vs. what I'm finding written up in history books on my ancestors in different states' 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.

Ol’ Myrt here is remiss in not having answered your questions earlier. There is no need to feel overwhelmed as it only make us less able to acquire and process information. Genealogists are constantly learning and honing their craft, as more reliable resources are coming to light each
Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 2nd Edition

You wrote “I've found mentioned 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.”

You’ve apparently looked some medieval lineage book (similar to Burke’s Peerage in Great Britain) for the same name as found in your mother’s line that you’ve traced back to the late 1500s. This is a troublesome method of research.

We simply MUST start with your mother, and work backward through the surviving documents at government and church archives to establish her lineage following the Genealogical Proof Standard. The puzzle is too overwhelming from a numbers point of view if you attempt to reverse the process, and work through each child of the circa 1249 individual, then trace each of the descendants through the 17-18 generations until you stumble across your proven ancestor in the late 1500s.

Observing this basic genealogical research principle - start with yourself and work
backwards, should reduce your stress level considerably.

  • Board for Certification of Genealogists. "Genealogical Proof Standard". (A summary in web format.)
  • Rose, Christina. Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 2nd Edition. From we read: "Preponderance of evidence" has been abandoned by the genealogical field, and "Genealogical Proof Standard" substituted. This booklet explains the changes and clearly sets out what the Genealogical Proof Standard is, and how to apply it to research. Written in simple terms, this updated and enlarged 2nd edition includes a discussion of the elements of building a case and weighing the evidence under present-day standards. 2005, 5½x8½, 58 pp. $8.95. ISBN: 092962615X.

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


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This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.