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Monday, June 27, 2011

NSDAR - Resources for Your Revolutionary War Ancestors WEBINAR


Men, don't let the term "daughters" throw you. Delving into NSDAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) application files can turn up documents provided as evidence of family relationships for each generation. Join this webinar Saturday to view a live demo of the DAR website and learn about the small but significant part that must be done in person or via remote research assistance. 

Ol' Myrt here particularly recommends this newly revised website, as you can search for not only the patriotic ancestor, but for family  members of the generations "in between." Once you find a lineage that is close to yours (perhaps "branching in" about 3-4 generations back) you can immediately download the application file with references to proof documents for a small fee.

Then its a matter of obtaining the source documents. There are a few tricks to this part, so be sure to tune in to the webinar for the latest info.

NSDAR - Resources for your Revolutionary War Ancestors WEBINAR
Presenter: DearMYRTLE
Saturday, July 2, 2011

Host: Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Extension Series 
10:00 AM - Pacific 
11:00 AM - Mountain 
12:00 PM - Central 
1:00 PM - Eastern 

Participate in the live broadcast Saturday 2 July 2011.
Thereafter, this webinar will be in the member-only area at SCGS website.
For more information about Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Extension Series see:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Carlisie PA military research has changed and may again

We arrived late Wednesday with enough time to get briefed on the new The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC). Our approach to the building was guarded by the multi-story signage shown above. That middle soldier's infrared beam seemed to follow us as we moved, just like those spooky old portraits with moving eyes in old-timey horror flicks. Undaunted, we forged ahead to seek out information about the military experience of several of our US ancestors.

Thursday morning found us waiting as the doors opened to the library in Ridgeway Hall. One must actually use the new doors to the left (out of range of this photo.)

Photos for this blog post taken by author, June 2011.
At that alternate entrance, we walked past the a large display room and the gift shop. Here's a peek at the indoor display, currently featuring the US Civil War.

Preparation for research was accomplished through the website where there is a link for the library's book, manuscript and photographic collection. We clicked around to find  We recognize from working through the catalog that this is only the first of many trips to Carlisle. Somewhere on the website Gordon remembers a comment that the online catalog is incomplete. Our plan is for Ol' Myrt to pull and digitize the manuscripts he expected to find. That will free Mr. Myrt up to work through the in-house bibliographic binders listing unit histories, etc..

Here are the details about the research facility and adjacent exhibits gallery:
"The Military History Institute (MHI) in Ridgway Hall [the library] will be open for research and touring on Saturdays from 9:00am-4:45pm. It will continue its normal weekday operations, Monday through Friday, 9:00am-4:45pm. MHI will continue to remain closed on Sundays. The new Visitor and Education Center building will open to the public for the first time on Saturday, May 14, 2011. The hours for this building will be 9:00am-5:00pm, Tuesday- Saturday, 11:00am-5:00pm, Sunday and closed Monday. The Visitor and Education Center includes a new exhibits gallery featuring the exhibit, “A Great Civil War, 1861: The Union Dissolved,” as well as multipurpose rooms and the USAHEC store." Source:
Unlike the open-stack style library at Carlisle Barracks I visited in the late 1990s, this AHEC library is state of the art and mostly closed stacks. We didn't need to go down rickety stairs to find the Iowa books and manuscripts, we merely ordered them and, in a few minutes, books and Hollinger box files were brought to our research table. Photographs are maintained in the same facility, so there was no need to navigate around all sorts of adjacent buildings as Barb, Audrey and I did back in the 1990s to visit the developing and emerging photographic collection. 

Back to our research:
Most of Mr. Myrt's catalog queries were at the unit level. For instance he has a Union soldier who served in the 31st Iowa, so he searched for "31st Iowa". From this he has determined there are seven unit and individual soldier portraits in the photographic collection. Although some images are online, the ones for the 31st Iowa are not. Mr. Myrt also found reference to an enlisted man's letter of 7 May 1863, and a transcribed diary of someone in the same unit, but a different company, that will be his focus during this research trip.

One thing Mr. Myrt noted in his online preparations was that some of the hits he got were for resources not found at Carlisle, instead referring to records at Ft. McNair. In fact, following only a cursory review, it is easy for me to conclude that each site has many links leading to the other.

Last week during our Advance Military Records II Course at Samford University's Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research there was some discussion about the distinctions between Carlisle and Ft. McNair as they are both Army history research facilities. Even now for us, those distinctions are vague.

According to Thursday morning's issue of The Sentinel daily newspaper, local residents are concerned about a proposed closing of this new (2001) AHEC (Army History Education Center) at Carlisle and moving everything to McNair. There is also something in the wind about a proposed museum at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. See Robert W. Black's letter to the editor 23 June, 2011 and his comment that the move would strike a serious blow to the local economy. Elsewhere in The Sentinal there was an unsubstantiated report of library usage going from 3-4,000 annually at the old US Army Military History Institute library to something in the low 30,000 annually with this new facility.

Apparently Pennsylvania state funds have also been used to create this facility. See The Sentinal State Senate passes resolution in support of AHEC. See also Guest Editorial: AHEC should stay in Carlisle that explains the "Army, through the taxpayers, the people of Pennsylvania and friends from other states, has invested $48 million, which has given the Army and the nation a superbly functioning historical reference facility with a fully trained staff."

Mr. Myrt and I are well-accustomed to researching in a variety of city, county, state and national libraries, archives and historical facilities throughout the county. By far, the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is arguably the most modern, well-equipped research facility we've visited. It would be a shame to close the doors on a $48 million dollar facility. We found the library staff ready and able to assist with peculiarities of our research work, providing prompt service in a cheerful manner. That is more than I can say for a few employees at NARA I or NARA II in Washington, DC, where we are sometimes made to feel as if we're imposing on the employees by asking our intermediate to advanced research questions.

To my mind, it would be unthinkable to lose this research center, conveniently located within a short drive of Gettysburg ~ one of the largest and most devastating battlegrounds of the Civil War. 

I sure hope someone brilliant works this out so research at AHEC can continue.Gordon was considering donating the original photo of his uniformed ancestor who served overseas during the Philippines Insurrection. With things up in the air, I think he is wise to hold back on that donation.

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

Friday, June 24, 2011

21st Century genealogists: how websites are failing us

If you've been following this week's series of "21st century" blog posts, you'd see it appears every segment of the genealogy world EXCEPT websites has done a whole lot better about citing sources - making it easier to evaluate the variety of information that is available in a document. (The only exception are those quick-click "genealogy buffs" who still have a long way to go.)

Although there may be some challenges of late about just which of the many citation examples to follow, 21st century genealogists GET IT. They know they have to leave that big audit trail, if for nothing more than to readily compare newly acquired information with what's already been concluded about an ancestor.

This past February, Mark Tucker of wrote A Better Way to Cite Online Sources–Reprise where he referred to his April 2009 video [emphasis added] showing how citing online sources could be done.  It would be a partnership between online record repositories and desktop genealogy software. He even went so far as to "create a prototype close enough to the real thing to prove that it could be done and to help others visualize how it would work." 

Nope. In fact, FamilySearch, one of the largest genealogy sites has totally messed up citations. See GeneJ's posting Are FamilySearch "Historical Record Collection" sources really subject to open addition/edit? After reading GeneJ's comments, Ol' Myrt here must conclude that:
Apparently, FamilySearch trusts every Tom, Dick and Harry out there to be capable of composing reasonably accurate source citations. But if Tom, Dick and Harry don't work for FamilySearch, and didn't physically load the FamilySearch servers with scanned images to match the index, then how can end-users like GeneJ and Ol' Myrt here say for sure what the collection is about?

Also see GeneJ's subsequent blog post, A closer look at FamilySearch 'Historical Record Collection' source. where she writes "I don't know why someone chose to give the wiki a different name ("New Hampshire Statewide Deaths") than the database (New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947"). Personally, I found that a little confusing."  Ol' Myrt here couldn't agree more. The title of an index to scanned images should appear precisely in the title of the scanned image collection, and a proper source citation should accompany both.


Aside from poor citation samples online, there is another problem.

Where websites fail is that in printing a typical scanned images from a website, we are left with nothing more than our operating system's default to print the URL across the bottom of the page. That doesn't bode well for researchers who look for complete citations. In a recent Second Life genealogy voice chat, several researchers shared how they get around the problem:
  • If one is printing out a document from a website, put the paper back in the printer, and using a word processing program, insert a proper source citation to print along the margin of the document print-out.
  • If keeping the scanned image in digital format, open it immediately in photo editing software to add a border across the bottom, and then insert several lines of text that comprise the citation.
Competent genealogists have been let down by their favorite genealogy websites when it comes to having citations that "stick" to the online images we choose to  print or save offline. Is this because said websites wish us to rely on their online trees? I sure hope not. I'm never going for that plan, I want more control over my compiled data.

It has been some 2 years since Mark Tucker's suggestion. WHERE are the citation innovators? Maybe it is time to switch working on "improved search engine capability" and deal with citations, eh?

Until genealogy websites step up to the plate making accurate source citations an integral part of our online and offline experience, genealogists will be forced to jump through hoops to figure out the true source of the information each image at those sites provide.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

21st Century genealogists: alternative citation samples

Though in recent blog posts we have discussed Elizabeth Shown Mills' citation examples, Ol' Myrt here is reminded Elizabeth's aren't the only ones responsible genealogists are using.

Recently, a respected colleague James Tanner over at the Genealogy's Star blog has expressed his opinions about evidence and citations, preferring a style he grew to understand during studies for his law degree. See his articles:
Among several professional genealogists, I've heard a rumble about alternative source citation models. I have yet to see where that line of thinking will take 21st genealogists as a whole, so I won't elaborate on that thought at this time.

Thanks to Tamura Jones for providing the following link to online Citation Standards from the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative - Citation Working Group, edited by Ann Apps, MIMAS, The University of Manchester, United Kingdom. "This document contains details of standards, including 'de facto' standards and those under development, which are available to describe bibliographic citations."

Our masked crusader, Ancestry Insider has weighed in with a series of posts about source citations. In Emphasize the Source You Used Over the Source of the Source, he writes "Citations have two purposes: locate the source and indicate its strength. This series of articles explains what we must do to accomplish these purposes for genealogical sources."

The concept of evaluating a source as a component of an exhaustive search using a variety of extant records is part of the equation if we expect to arrive at a reasonable kinship determination. Along this line, Tamura Jones hits the nail on the head when he writes " Obscure sources are the hall-mark of the specialised genealogist; it is only by familiarising yourself with lesser-known archives and collections relevant to your specialisation that you become great at that specialisation. The more you know about the relevant archives and collections, the better a genealogist you are." Source:  Genealogy is More than Archival Research posted 17 June 2011.

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

21st century genealogists: are we becoming better historians?

There is good reason to consider Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian and Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace 2nd Edition over say, The Chicago Manual of Style, (also on my bookshelf), as the latter does not consider sources genealogists typically run across in our research. Elizabeth's influence certainly has pushed genealogy from a quick-fix "hobby" to a "family historian" pursuit (with the emphasis on history). 

  • Historians use surviving documents and then write their view of an historical event.
  • Genealogists use surviving documents and then write their view of kinship and community. 
  • Both are limited by their ability to remain objective. 
  • Both must take care to cite sources so others can follow the line of thinking.
Of the two, historians consider themselves more studious, and in fact have looked down on genealogists for not being meticulous in source citation and analysis.

Our study of Elizabeth Shown Mills' evidence and citation work has gone a long way to overcoming the image that genealogists are nothing more than "genealogy buffs" who think climbing a family tree is just a mouse-click away. 

Mark D. Tucker compiled a Genealogy Research Process Map, having consulted with Elizabeth, that guides us from research goals, to considering a variety of sources, citations, processing of information found in those sources, evaluation of evidence to the development of a "proof argument". Such arguments are essential when you don't find 2-5 original, primary sources stating a definitive family relationship between individuals among people with such unique names that there is no possibility of confusing them with anyone else in the community for a 150 year time period. 99% of my research is in that category, and requires "inferential genealogy" reasoning as Tom Jones calls it.

Hopefully we are becoming more like historians in our approach to citation and analysis. 

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

Finding the date of last Thursday and six other challenges

Whilst Mr. Myrt is sleeping soundly, I've been updating my genealogy database, comparing it with what I've attached to folks on my Tree. For some reason I decided to search for my maternal grandfather, Lowell Froman. I found a hit for him in the Seattle Times obit of his mother Mrs. Louise Gielow. Boy, am I excited! I recognized her last married name and those of her grown children.

Here's the link to the scanned image of the full page, shown in this partial screen shot below. Note that GenealogyBank thankfully highlights text with light yellow boxes if it matches the search criteria.

I am always curious to learn more about my great-grandfather, Lowell Simpson Froman, whom I met only once when I was about 4 or 5 years of age. He was divorced from my mother's mother years before. I knew he played the clarinet, and in fact I have one of his clarinets at our home in Utah.

You can imagine I was thrilled to find the obit on Lowell's equally elusive mother. She married a series of men after the death of her first husband William Gist Froman from whom our side of the family descends. In fact it was Louise who told my mother via telephone in the early 1950s that the "G" stands for "Gist" though all his records seem to refer to him as Wm G. or William G.

So, here are the steps I took to incorporate this digital image into my genealogy data files.

SAVED THE FILE from GenealogyBank in my Froman genealogy data folder on Dropbox. Oops! It could only save in .PDF format, and my RootsMagic won't take that. So I also zoomed in and cropped the obit itself, saving it as a .jpg file. Since I am using my laptop in a hotel room right now, I resorted to using Windows Paint, a freebie program that came with this machine.

VERIFIED THE NEWSPAPER TITLE AND DATE as transcribed is the same as that found on the scanned image. YUP! I like to copy/paste transcribed info to avoid my own typographical errors, with which my DearREADERS are entirely too familiar, but I digress.

LABELED THE OBIT (shown in red below) with the name of the newspaper and publication date, again, using Microsoft Paint. Any photo editing software will do the trick for you.


TRANSCRIBED THE OBITUARY in my RootsMagic notes for Louisa's death as follows:
Funeral services for Mrs. Louise Mae Gielow, 89, of 6559 35th Av. N. E., were held yesterday at the Washington Memorial Chapel. She died Thursday in a Seattle Hospital.

Mrs. Gielow came to Seattle five years ago from San Diego. She was born in Coffee, Mo.

Surviving are three sons, Lowell Froman, Prairie Village, Kas., Leland Froman in Nebraska and Herbert Froman, Kansas City, Mo., and three daughters, Mr.s Helen Hall, St. Joseph, Mo., Mrs. Ada Drake, Federal Way , and Mrs. Louise Arthurs, Seattle. Burial was in Washington Memorial Park.

Obituary for Louise (Higgins) Froman Gielow appeared in the Seattle Times 12 February 1967 page 18. Scanned image found online at
Just what IS the date of "Thursday" (we're assuming the immediately prior Thursday) if the obit was published 12 February 1967? Easy, smeasy! Just go to and type in the known date. Then click the little calendar icon to view Feb 1967 and make the determination. From this you can see that the 9th is the previous Thursday.

ENTERED THE DEATH DATE AND PLACE for Louise in my RootsMagic software. We had previously guessed the death was in the late 1960s or 1970s somewhere in California, but I learned from the obituary that Louise had moved from San Diego to Seattle some five years prior to her death in 1967.

ATTACHED THE OBIT IMAGE to the death information for Louise in RootsMagic, completing the note taking and citations.

At this point, the obituary is the only indication of a death date and place I have for Louise. This newspaper entry is a secondary source of information in that it is derived from another source, most likely the personal knowledge of someone reporting the information to the newspaper.

I'll want to obtain a copy of Louise's death certificate since it was an official record created for the government to report the event of her death and is considered more reliable. Fortunately, has the Washington State Death Index online, so I looked and found the following entry:

Washington State Death Index
Name: Louise M Gielow
Date of Death: 9 Feb 1967
Place of Death: Seattle
Residence: Seattle
Gender: Female
Certificate: 002999 Washington Death Index, 1940-1996 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002. Original data: Washington State Department of Health. State Death Records Index, 1940-1996. Microfilm. Washington State Archives, Olympia, Washington.

SHOULD I HAVE WAITED FOR THE DEATH CERTIFICATE to arrive before typing the death information in my RootsMagic? The quick answer is no. Information about ancestors doesn't come to us in perfect form -- it comes in dribs and drabs, a bit at a time. So it is a matter of recording what I have at this point in time - the obit, not the death certificate.

Since it is 2:07am, I can hardly contact the Washington State Department of Health and have them fax over a copy of Louise's official death record.

But I do want to order it, as cause of death will be important in compiling my medical family history.

And there is nothing like getting it straight from the horses' mouth... or in this case, a notation to hopefully include the actual death date from the attending physician at that "Seattle hospital."

FOR THE OVERLY CURIOUS, here's a picture of my great-grandmother in her earlier years. It was sent in as proof of her relationship to Union Civil War soldier, William G. Froman who served in Company D, 3rd Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia.

Louise M. Froman (front of image)

(back of image with notation from her attorney to the US Pension Office.)

Can my DearREADERS mention at least six additional things Ol' Myrt should do with that obituary before I move on to the next project? Post your suggestions in comments to this blog entry. I'll keep checking back throughout the next few days to see what you come up with for me to do. Maybe you'll think of something I've missed entirely.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

21st century genealogists: consider the evolution of citation and analysis

Years ago the best thinking among genealogists included the necessity of creating a "preponderance of evidence" (a legal term). We looked to Donald Line Jacobus whose work far eclipsed the late 19th century seemingly self-serving and largely undocumented printed family histories. His example provided new standards for research. We consulted Cite Your Sources: A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records by Richard S. Lackey hoping to get it right. During this time we experienced the emergence of the home computer with primitive genealogy management programs, but soon we were off and running.

Through all this, software kind of "ruled" as we became dependent on just "filling in the blanks" on a computer screen. If there wasn't a field for the information, some of us put the info in notes. Many did not. And those original programs had no source citation fields.

Then there was the development of the "Genealogical Proof Standard" described at the BCG website page and detailed in the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. The esteemed Helen F. M. Leary explains "Science and the law are in agreement: there is only one way to prove kinships beyond reasonable doubt — DNA testing. As a genealogical standard, that is hardly practical. For at least the past 25 years, genealogists have tried to use another standard for judging the persuasiveness of evidence: the preponderance of the evidence — popularly called the POE. In practice, the results have been troublesome. During the summer of 1997, trustees of the Board for Certification voted to discontinue use of the term. They based that decision upon several factors [...]" See "Evidence Revisited: DNA, POE, and GPS," published originally in OnBoard 4 (January 1998.)

For many years now, US researchers have been following the development of "evidence" style citation and analysis as expressed by Elizabeth Shown Mills in Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian and in Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace now in its second edition. (I particularly like the first two chapters for the "reasoning" and I use the subsequent chapters as a "look-up" reference book for how to cite a source.)

We've been pleased as our genealogy management programs adopted forms for citing our sources that more closely align with Elizabeth Shown Mills' citation examples. Many of us have taken classes from Mrs. Mills' to work through citation challenges at APG Professional Management conferences and the like.

The result? We've become obsessed with the difference between an original and a derivative source. We are careful to determine whether information in that source is primary (first hand) or secondary (second hand), or any combination thereof. We've learned to resolve conflicting information and write about it in notes for an ancestor.

In other words, we're getting better at leaving a BIG AUDIT TRAIL for those that follow.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

21st century genealogists are the new improved version (hopefully)

This series of posts is an abbreviated overview of where we've been and where Ol' Myrt thinks we're going and is by no means exhaustive when it comes to describing our evolution as 21st century genealogists. In my opinion, genealogists are growing into a responsible group of dedicated researchers because we are:
  • improving how we record data
  • indicating specifically where we got our information about a family
  • utilizing scanned images rather than transcriptions of old documents to make our kinship determinations
  • keeping up with technology to more readily share not just the data but the scanned images of source documents, maps, photos, etc. used to compile our family histories
  • attending high-level-thinking classes to hone our skills (such as institutes, BU, ProGen Study Groups)
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Playing catchup -- mustered anyone?

Dear, DearREADERS,
Whilst both Mr. and Mrs. Myrt were away at Samford University attending the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research, little blogging has been forthcoming from my keyboard. However, these little snippets appeared on my Facebook page in response to the tremendous amount of information presented in our Advanced Military Records II Course (colonial America up to but not including the US Civil War.) Craig R. Scott, CG was our course coordinator, with Rick Sayre, CG; J. Mark Lowe, CG; and Debbie Miezella as additional instructors.

This site provides links to extant order books.

Interesting to evaluate the reliability of a deposition in an ancestor's pension file: David Library of the American Revolution: Patron's Perspective: Larry Kidder on the Reliability of ...
davidlibraryar.blogspot.comThe David Library of the American Revolution is a specialized research library dedicated to the study of American history circa 1750 to 1800. We are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, admission free. The David Library is a non-profit educational institution.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC)
Gordon and I are planning to research here all day on Wednesday on our way home to our place in Utah. The link to the library page including catalog is:

Inquiries to Center for Military History 
Project Gutenberg Deb Mieszala, CG reminded me of since there are F & Indian War and Rev war journals out of copyright. I've been doing too much mid to late 19th century to remember this website.
Craig Scott, CG explained about these certificates. British fired on the US ship the Chesapeake to attempt to impress men into service. (We didn't have birth certificates or passports to prove citizenship.)
Indexes to Seamen's Protection Certificate Applications and Proofs of Citizenship
Genealogical Publishing Company Indexes to Seamen's Protection Certificate Applications and Proofs of Citizenship, Ports of New Orleans, LA; New Haven, CT; and Bath, ME - Seamen's Protection Certificates were authorized by Congress in 1796 to identify American merchant sailors.
The Society of The Cincinnati
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FGS 2011: Copyright issues for genealogists

Cath Trindle invites bloggers, webmasters, editors, beginning researchers and everyone else in the genealogical community to join FGS in Springfield, Illinois this September to attend session W-104: But It's My Family: Copyright Issues for Genealogists. She explains this session is definitely NOT for societies only.

Cath Madden Trindle, CG, is treasurer of FGS and Projects chair for California State Genealogical Alliance and SMCGS. She is well known as a speaker and researcher throughout California. 
Ol' Myrt here interviewed Cath in my capacity as a 2011 Official FGS Conference Blogger and posed the following questions:

QUESTION: What constitutes "fair use" ?

Fair Use is codified in Section 107 of Title 17 US Code as the right to use portions of a work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.  Determination of whether a use is "Fair Use" depends on the following factors:  the purpose of the use, the nature of the work, the amount of original used and the effect of that use on the profitability of the original. 

The concept is by it's very nature vague and as the Stanford University Website points out, " millions of dollars in legal fees have been spent attempting to define what qualifies as a fair use."  They go on to say that legislators and judges want to keep the definition flexible enough that there can degrees of interpretation.
Of course this does not make life simple for genealogists, clear cut answers would definitely be easier.  In this Lecture which will be given on Society Day at FGS and also sponsored by FGS & CSGA for the Society portion of SCGS's Jamboree next week, I try to give a better understanding of how to assess your use using the factors above as well as information on what is copyrighted and what is in the public domain.  Questions from the audience are encouraged and often lead to interesting discussions as we see the two sides of the issue.

QUESTION: Just how much of someone's blog, book or website can I reasonably use in my compiled family history?

Tom Jones, CG in his lecture “Honesty, Courtesy, and Confidentiality: Ethics for Family Historians.” (available on CD from JAMB Productions) suggests using the "Rule of Three."  If you use more that three words, put it in quotes.  If you use more than three paragraphs you need permission.  This works well for books and many scholarly articles.
However, that doesn't necessarily work well for blogs, which might be only three paragraphs to begin with.Universities tend to use a 10% rule.  It is important though, to use that 10% on each piece of a work, a chapter of a book, a section of an article or a single posting on a blog and not translate it into, "I can use one chapter of the ten in the book."
Additionally you should look at how you will publish your compiled genealogy.  If the genealogy will be on a CD or on the web where you could hyperlink to a web-based original, then an abstract of the information and a link to the original is a much better choice.  If you are printing, or the original is not available online, then you would not be able to access the original immediately, so you might use Tom's rule of three and get permission for more than three paragraphs.

QUESTION: Just how much of someone's blog, book or website can I reasonably quote in my genealogy blog?

The discussion above would also work well for what you can use in a blog.  You run into another issue here as well, the right of the copyright owner to control where his work is distributed.  Counteracting that is the "Fair Use" right to comment and criticize.  It is very easy to take someone's work out of context and that could give them the right to ask you to remove their work from your blog.  So again the best answer is to use as little as possible to make your point and put a link to the blog or website so that reader's can access the original.  Another possible gauge of whether you've used too much might be what percentage of your posting is actually the work of the other person, while I haven't seen this issue directly addressed, perhaps a good starting point would be the 10% rule in reverse, the single posting should be at least 90% the blogger's original work.
Bottom line, you can easily find a blogger, unlike the authors of some of those out of print books, so why not ask if you can include part of their post in your blog along with a link.  If you are criticizing the posting, permission is unlikely, so keep it short, in quotes, and provide the link.
There are a lot of great postings about copyright for bloggers.  One of those I found very useful was TubeTorials Copyright Issues for Bloggers 
As you can see, Cath knows her stuff, so her conference session is well worth your while.
W-104: But It's My Family: Copyright Issues for Genealogists
Cath Madden Trindle

Whether writing or collecting a family history, this session offers a discussion of current US copyright law, International copyright, pending legislation, fair use, court actions and ethical issues of copying and sharing genealogical information electronically or in print.
Register for the Federation of Genealogical Society Conference
7-10 Sep 2011
Springfield, Illinois

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

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Are These "Orphaned Heirlooms" From Your Family Tree?

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: Met this gal at the NGS Conference in May. Thought I'd pass this info on to my DearREADERS. Joy tells me that a number of free memberships to her site will be awarded on the 4th of July. announces important acquisitions to their family heirloom exchange.  An Andrew Jackson signed patent document, an 1868 Atlanta occupation muster roll and a 1799 engraved rapier are just a few of hundreds of family related original items that have been added to the website in the last few weeks.
"It is so exciting when items like these come out of the woodwork," said Joy Shivar, owner of the service.  "We never know what the antique dealers will present next." was a spotlighted vendor at the recent National Genealogical Society's annual conference in Charleston, SC.  Their display exhibited examples of original family-related antiques and artifacts or "orphaned heirlooms" available through the site.
"We call it 'antique hunting in the family tree'" explained Shivar.
The $20.00 annual fee entitles users access to all of the information about the artifacts on the site as well as the "surname notification service".  Users are notified by e-mail as items appear that match member's specific surname interest - an important feature as there is usually only one of each item available.  Members may also list family related items for free.
For more information on, visit the site, call 704-948-1912 or e-mail

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Inferential Genealogy Study Group Report - Case 2

Genealogists in Second Life met this past Tuesday to discuss Case 2 of the Inferential Genealogy Course by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS is available for free at FamilySearch. Here's the direct link to the video file:

A big thanks to Ginger for taking notes of our meeting for this blog post:

Initial thoughts:
  • Would have been helpful to see original docs, not "recreated" docs.
  • Dates were not given on the documents, and had to be retrieved from the citations.
  • You could not copy and paste the citations from the website.
  • One citation gave the date of the book, and omitted the date of the transcribed document (VA History).
  • There was definitely a technical disparity between what Dr Jones was saying and what FamilySearch presented in the documents online.
  • Myrt says when class is done in real life with real docs, it makes better sense.
  • There was a disparity between the number of docs in spreadsheet and what was presented
  • Making a timeline and using the spreadsheet would be worthwhile exercises.
  • If we didn’t trust Jones, we would think he had made too much of a leap of faith from only those 7 docs to draw a conclusion. There were too many assumptions.

A couple of times Jones said Howerton, but we saw Overton in the reconstructed docs. One doc looked like "Harrison" but these were "reconstructed".

Focused Goal:
Tom Jone's "Who were the parents of Obediah Overton?" was not specific enough as we needed location and time period to include in your research question. We thought Jones could have even been more specific, since he had just made the point in Case 1 to include some other specifics to distinguish this ancestor from others in the area. He did not include a time period, locality, spouse or child with which to identify him.

Hard to make a focused goal without having any initial info from documents about Obediah in hand.


Document # 1:
Deed from George Overton and Mary his wife to Benjamin Massey and Thomas Moore. 1795. Dr. Jones said there was no record of George Overton ever paying taxes on this land.

Why did Jones say there was no evidence of George Overton paying taxes on this land?

  • Did he inherit the land in the last year?
  • Was he too old to pay taxes?
  • Could he not afford to pay taxes? maybe but might be consequences or impediments with selling the land
We didn’t get any information about whether he paid taxes from this document, so why was this mentioned here?

Document # 2: Tax records showing Benjamin Massey and Thomas Morris paying taxes on land bought of George [Harrison]. This part of the video was confusing because the "reconstructed" document clearly says George “Harrison” however, when describing the record, Dr. Jones said it was land purchased from George “Howerton.” Ben Massey paid taxes on the George Howerton property.

Document # 3: Deed in which [Jas] [Overton] gives land to his son George Overton in Spotsylvania County, VA. Again, this was confusing because Dr. Jones described this as a deed in which “John Howerton” gave land to his son George Howerton, however you can clearly see from the scan that it says “Jas Overton.”  No time period listed in the document although citation says 1791.

Several stated we were wasting our time with these "recreated" docs.

Document # 4: A petition that was signed taken from the Orange County, Virginia History book listing George Overton, Obediah Overton, and Thomas Morris as signers of the petition: was problematic. While the publication date of the book was in the citation, but there was no mention of the date the petition was signed. Using information from this document doesn't seem relevant without the date. 
Document # 5:
 1842 deed from the heirs of George Overton of land to Willis Overton, signed by Willis Overton, John Overton, William Carmmack, William Davidson, and an attorney for Wish H Overton and George. Dr Jones said we meet Willis Jones “Sr.” in this doc but we did not see mention of a “Sr.” anywhere in this document.

Document # 6: A deed that John Howerton witnessed. We were not given the date, but the citation says 1740.  Citation: Spotsylvania Co, VA , Deed Book C:400. Dowdey to Marsh, 21 Aug 1740; County Court, Spotsylvania; FHL microfilm 34,069.

Document # 7: Tax records – two separate tax documents - one that showed two Willis Overtons listed – one was said to be “son of George” and the other was “son of Obediah.”

The citations for these two tax records should have been recorded as two different records ~ tax record one said this and tax record two said this. You never know if one or the other of the docs end up being disproved as essential to this research problem.

Dr Jones says one Willis Overton was son of George and one son of Obediah. One is a Sr and one is Jr (2nd tax list); 2nd tax list says one of those Willis’ is son of George. Dr. Jones says once we figure out which one was son of Obediah and son of George, ie Sr or Jr, we can figure out who married whom.

At least one participant is convinced they will look at tax records, to broaden their search to include tax records.

Citation: Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts, Personal Property Tax Lists, Spotsylvania, Co, 1798, district of Andrew Frazer, p. 10 and 1799, District of A. Frazer, p. 10, Willis Overton entries’ Archives, Library of Virginia, Richmond; FHL microfilm 1,905,732, item 2.

Document # 8: The Will of John Howerton, written 1791. Dr. Jones said that it listed several of John’s descendants, however the scan does not show any descendants’ names. It only shows the witnesses’ names which were David, Samuel, and Sam G Partlow Jr. This was another "reconstructed" document - date of death was date entered in record book. At first he says the descendants were named, but he did not give us the names. Then later in his journal entry Jones mentions a granddaughter. So why the partial view of a "reconstructed" document?

Some thought the witnesses were the heirs, otherwise, why were they shown but the names of the heirs were not?


  1. Dr Jones says that they used the names Overton and Howerton interchangeably
  2. Obediah and George were about the same age, in same location across the span of about 50 years, each had a son named Willis, which made us wonder if they had a father named Willis.
  3. Just because John was the oldest did not mean he was the father
  4. Why was Obediah not in the tax list table?

We did not get to see all the documents that Dr Jones reviewed. The docs were fed to us in an incomplete manner.

We felt the best information was provided by Dr. Jones's table listing the land records and taxes paid by Howerton and Overtons over a 20 year period. This effectively demonstrated the progression from the use of Howerton to the use of Overton for the family surname.

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: If we take Dr. Jones at his word alone, Case 2 makes sense. However, the method of presenting "reconstructed" and incomplete documents through the FamilySearch interface made it impossible to arrive at the same kinship conclusions without a great leap of faith in Dr. Jones.

We will meet at the following dates, times and places in Second Life to share our work in this course:

  • Tuesday, 31 May 2011 - 6pm at the Just Genealogy Fire Pit (Intro)
  • Sunday, 5 June 2011 - 5:15pm at the Tabernacle near the Family History Centre (Case Study 1)
  • Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 6pm at the Just Genealogy Fire Pit (Case Study 2)
  • (Note we will skip a week as several participants of the study group will be attending the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.)
  • Sunday, 19 June 2011 - 5:15pm at the Tabernacle near the Family History Centre (Case Study 3)
  • Tuesday, 21 June 2011 - 6pm at the Just Genealogy Fire Pit (Conclusion and Feedback)

REMEMBER, the Study Group won't meet until Sunday 19 June 2011 owing to many participants being out of town. Heather remarked if Case 3 is anything like Case 2, we will all need the extra week to study.

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

GenDetective™: Tells you what you DON’T KNOW and what you need to FIND!

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: This is just in from Sandy,  who is also a participant of BetterGEDCOM. It is amazing what creative genealogy programmers come up with these days.

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FGS 2011: 2 hour family narrative workshop

Social history serves two purposes for genealogists, according to Diane Gagel:
  • Provides clues as to what may have happened to our ancestors or why they did things.
  • Fills in gaps in our family details when writing family histories or narratives.

Diane VanSkiver Gagel, MA will be teaching a special 2-hour workshop titled Social History and Genealogy: Writing a Family Narrative during the 2011 Federation of Genealogical Society Conference in Springfield, Illinois. Class participants can expect to practice combining social history with family information to create a Family History Narrative which is more than just names, dates, and places.

A retired college instructor, freelance writer, and professional genealogist, Diane has a M. A. in American Studies. Diane has been a speaker at NGS, FGS, and the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conferences. Diane has served as Chairman of the Board of the Ohio Genealogical Society and is the Immediate Past President of OGS as well as a Fellow of OGS.

As an official 2011 FGS Conference Blogger, Ol' Myrt had the privilege of interviewing Diane about the workshop.

QUESTION: What social history resources are considered reliable?

In general, the resources I consider reliable are those written contemporary to a particular event or time--primary sources and secondarily I use social history sources that are usually written by professional historians and have well-documented their research.

For example, when I was writing about a pioneer Anabaptist family in NW Ohio who came to Ohio from NY via the Erie Canal in the 1830s, I relied on contemporary accounts about travel on the canal, one of which was Charles Dickens who had traveled the canal within the time frame. I also used histories of the canal as well as the bibliographies in the secondary sources that led me to more primary sources. This same family arrived in Cleveland after using a lake steamer to take them from Buffalo to Cleveland: for this I relied on other contemporary sources, like the Cleveland newspapers at the time and also a painting of what the public square looked like in 1832. From these I deduced what the family would have done and seen from the time they left the steamer to when they boarded another canal boat in Ohio to take them to Wayne Co. OH.

Other sources I use are memoirs of people who lived in the same area, or participated in the same events, i.e. a specific Civil War regiment. County histories often contain "pioneer reminiscences" that may be helpful for migration stories, pioneer life, etc.

Some books I have used include Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer; The Americans: A Social History of the US 1587-1914 by J. C. Furnas. I also use life in America compilations of comtemporary writings like My Native Land: Life in America, 1790-1870 by Warren S. Tryon. PERSI [PERiodical Source Index] can point out published first person accounts found in genealogical and historical journals.

I have also used primary sources like estate inventories to extrapolate what an ancestor's life or house was like. For example, I have seen House inventories from 17th Century New Amsterdam that give a room by room inventory of the deceased's home. In others, if no books are listed, then the family was probably not very literate. The tools, the animals, etc listed in inventories can provide the details around which one can write how they made their living or occupations. These details along with the examples I have given above all can come together to write a family narrative.

Of course, now with the Internet, many of the out of print books are now more accessible. I use Google books a great deal, along with other genealogy type sites: Ancestry, Footnote, etc.

QUESTION: What software do you recommend folks use to write a family history narrative?

I use Word for the narrative part. Genealogy programs that would be helpful are those that create timelines. However, when I first started using computers for my genealogy, I used PAF [Personal Ancestral File], which I still use as my primary database. When I put notes for individuals in the program, I put them in chronological order, starting with the date of the event, i.e. land purchase, military service, etc., so I could print them out to use as a reference in finding social history sources.

Using the timelines can then be cross-referenced with history timeline books or online for a general outline of what what going on in America or another country. Putting a family in historical context is very important. For example, I have a German ancestor who came to America with a complete family--wife and 7 children. However, when I pick him up in Ohio records, his wife and 3 children are missing--in one year's time. What happened? American and local Ohio history told me that most German immigrants at the time in SW Ohio used the Miami-Erie Canal to go from Cincinnati to Dayton in 1832. History timelines listed that cholera was very deadly that year along the canals, including the M-E Canal. I then found a little newspaper blurb in Dayton regarding the landing of a canal boat filled with Germans suffering from cholera. This was the same time and place as my ancestors' journey. No names were mentioned, but I deduced this is probably what happened. 

Diane's workshop T-209  Social History: Writing a Family Narrative is scheduled on Thursday before and after lunch. Check the program schedule for the room assignment.
  • 11am to 12pm
  • 2pm to 3pm
Come to the workshop with sharpened pencils and be ready to write!

Register for the 2011 FGS Conference by visiting: 

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