10 September 2008, Vol. 11, No. 19
Table of Contents
Using RootsWeb
Genealogy Tip
Connecting
Bottomless Mailbag:
Readers Write In
Advertisements
What’s New: Databases, Freepages, and Mailing Lists
The Darkroom
You Found It
Subscriptions, Submissions,
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Using Rootsweb
By Jana Lloyd
World Archives Project: Saving the World’s Records Fifteen Minutes at a Time

I know many of you RootsWeb users are avid volunteers. You spend hours of your personal time transcribing records for local historical societies, serving as admins on RootsWeb message boards and mailing lists, and performing look-ups or other services for genealogy newbies and friends.

Well, I want to introduce you to one more opportunity to be of service to the genealogy community. And if you haven’t spent much time helping out this community in the past, perhaps this will be the opportunity that finally catches your attention.

Ancestry.com has just launched an initiative this month—called the World Archives Project—to allow anyone to transcribe records to put up on their site. I know some RootsWeb users have mixed feelings about Ancestry.com and would resist putting time into anything that goes up behind Ancestry’s “paid wall,” but I think this project is really a win-win for everyone. First of all, the indexes created by these efforts will be kept on Ancestry for free—anyone can access them (to view any record images you will have to be an Ancestry member—but all indexes are free). Second, Ancestry is such a known name in the genealogy world that helping get records up on their site ensures the records will be easily visible and available to all—unlike some transcriptions that get buried in binders in a local library or perhaps on a smaller website.

I have tried out the new community keying software that is at the heart of this project and found it easy—and even fun—to use. It is very similar to the indexing software used by FamilySearch.

To participate, you simply download the software (use your RootsWeb or Ancestry login—or create one for free if you don’t already have one), go through a brief tutorial, then start transcribing records, using the online helps along the way if you get stuck. You’ll be given a sheet or two of records to transcribe—from a state census for example—and each batch will take you only about fifteen minutes. Also, while you need an Internet connection to download the software and the records—as well as to upload them when you’re done—you don’t need to be online to do the transcriptions. So if you have a laptop you can take it with you anywhere you want (the beach, the laundry mat, the library) and transcribe any time you have a few free minutes.

Like with the FamilySearch system, each record is transcribed by two individuals and if the transcriptions match they are accepted into the system; if there is a discrepancy, the record image is sent to an experienced arbitrator who makes the final decision about what the record says. This system of checks and balances should make the indexes even more accurate than those records on Ancestry that were keyed by a single individual.

All of the individuals I’ve spoken with who tested out this software for Ancestry while it was in its beta stages have not only enjoyed it—they’ve learned a lot. Besides being a professional piece of software that is easy to use, it makes you feel like you’re making a legitimate contribution to a well-organized project that will benefit thousands of people.
Also, transcribing the records gives you a greater appreciation for how difficult it is to actually create these online indexes—trying to read handwriting that got scrunched into a small space at the end of a line, or just to read a difficult page of handwriting. And, of course, there are the stories that the records tell.

I spoke with one woman who had indexed a set of Wisconsin mortality schedules (lists of deceased people not included in censuses), who was particularly touched when she ran across the record for Willie Foster, a one-year-old boy who died of inflammation of the lungs.

“I couldn’t help but wonder what this child looked like,” she said, “if his mother loved him as dearly as I love my little boys, and how she ever managed to overcome the loss of her baby. . . . I realized that my family is much, much larger than I had ever considered and encompasses not only my blood kin, but all of the Willie Fosters in the world—all of the people who deserve to have their names, their stories, no matter how short or sad, documented and appreciated.”

If you want to learn more about the World Archives Project or download the software and start transcribing records, go here.

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Genealogy Tip
By Joan Young
Getting the Most Out of Pre-1850 U.S. Federal Census Records
The United States began taking a census every ten years starting in 1790. Pre-1850 censuses included only the head of household by name; others were indicated by a tally mark. From 1790 through 1820 the censuses were kept locally and are not available for some states. In 1830 an official census schedule was used for the first time and the records were maintained on the federal level. For more detailed information about who/what was included on these various census records, click here.
 
Here are some tips to follow when examining pre-1850 census listings:
 
1) View original images at Ancestry.com or elsewhere: Don't rely exclusively on indexes or transcriptions. Poor handwriting or transcription errors may result in inaccurate indexes. You can assess name spellings better on an original document. Look for spelling variations on a single listing as well as surname spelling evolution over the years. Enumerators sometimes included informative side notes.
 
2) Create a timeline: Try to locate the head of household on all pre-1850 censuses and compare your findings to later census records. Knowing where your family lived can help you find church records, land records, or wills you can use to compare to the family structure in the census.
 
3) Don't leap to conclusions: Don't assume the oldest male in a household is necessarily the head of household or that everyone is a family member. Farm laborers, boarders, or apprentices may be included. The family could have raised children other than their own. Extra children in a household could also indicate a prior marriage. Missing family members, or a family structure vastly different from what you expected, could be a clue you found the wrong household.
 
4) Official census dates: Enumerators were supposed to list the household as of the official census date and not on the day of the visit. Official dates are as follows: 1790-1820—the first Monday in August; 1830-1840—the first day of June.
 
5) Check out the neighbors: Scroll through the pages surrounding your family for possible relatives.
 
Additional considerations:
1820: Males 16-18 were recorded twice. The separate listing was to better pin down the number of young males. Some occupations were listed for the head of household. Non-citizens were identified. This information could lead you to immigration and naturalization records.
1830: The town/district and county were included. Deaf, dumb, and blind were also listed.
1840: The insane were listed—this could suggest the availability of institutional or guardianship records. Revolutionary War pensioners were identified, which could indicate that military and pension files may be available.
 
For more information see the following:
Michael John Neill's "Starting Pre-1850 Census Searching"
Kimberly Powell's "Digging Details from Pre-1850 U.S. Census Records"
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Connecting
Connecting Through Surname Message Boards

After getting the genealogy bug, I started posting my family names on the various surname boards. My mother’s family was extremely close and my mother was able to furnish me with many, many names that she remembered, along with birth, marriage, and death dates, some going back three or four generations. We were also able to go through old family photos and she was able to put names with the photos, adding family stories and lore.
 
My father's family was the exact opposite. My father passed away long before I started researching. My mother only knew his mother and father and some of his brothers and sisters. She was able to tell me the city where they all lived and grew up and that many were buried in one of our city cemeteries. I put out many queries, requesting information regarding my grandparents. Many months later, after many frustrating, futile searches, I finally received an answer from a young man researching the same family.
 
It turned out we lived in the same city. He was very interested in researching together and sharing everything. He was in his last year of college and was planning on traveling to England in the near future to visit the city, church, and cemetery of our relatives. He really was a God-send. What could have been an extremely high brick wall, he was able to easily climb over. His great-grandmother was my father's older sister. The sister's daughter inherited all of the family pictures, documents, certificates, etc. So because he was willing to reach out to a stranger, we have a very nice, full family tree. We were also able to locate many unknown cousins who were as excited as we were to connect with each other, culminating in a family reunion two years ago. Many more pictures, stories, and facts were shared.

Diane Porter Larson
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Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
What’s In a Name?
I had an uncle named Corbett Bland Swinney and often wondered where he got those given names and was surprised to find out that his daughter Emma, who is knowledgeable about such things, didn't know either. Since he was born on 9 May 1894, I decided to check for famous people of that time. A quick Google search revealed that Jim Corbett won the heavyweight boxing championship from John L. Sullivan on 7 September 1892 and I believe that might be the source of his first name. Another Google search for "Bland" revealed that a congressional politician with that last name introduced a bill calling for free coinage of silver about the time of Corbett's birth. Since my grandfather, Corbett's father, was a farmer in Missouri, I feel almost certain that is where the middle name came from—farmers almost universally supported that legislation.
Derrell A. Sweem
 
Reading Difficult Images

If I have a difficult-to-read document I scan it into my photography program (Picasa is a very good free download) and then lighten / darken the image to the point where I can read the text. I've had great success doing this with photocopies from the Irish Registry of Deeds films, some of which are otherwise almost illegible.

Kaye Cole
Melbourne, Australia
An Exception to Keeping Your Password Secret

One comment about Mary Harrell-Sesniak's tip on creating genealogy passwords from last month's Review. While I agree that it is very important to keep passwords secret, there is one exception that genealogy folks should keep in mind. I have heard of at least two instances in which large family files on home computers became inaccessible to others when their creators died. Passwords to such files should be kept with other important papers in a location known to family members.

Joy Weaver
East Islip, New York, USA

Have a story, question, genealogy resource, or tip you'd like to share with RootsWeb Review readers? Send it to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the editor or of RootsWeb.com.

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What's New: Databases, Freepages, and Mailing Lists
New User-contributed Databases at RootsWeb

No new user-contributed databases.

Submit Your Genealogical Data to a RootsWeb Database.

New/Updated Freepages by Individuals
Adventures in Southern Genealogy, a website devoted to descendants of Joel Duke, Carroll Martin, Joshua Hadley, Charlie McCollum, and James Eiland, has recently been updated with a new Web design, incorporation of a genealogical blog, updated links, an e-mail address, and new photos.

If you have a new or substantially revised freepage at RootsWeb and would like to see it mentioned here, send the URL, the title, and a BRIEF description, including major surnames, to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

If your genealogy- or history-related site is located somewhere other than RootsWeb, you can add the link to RootsWeb here.

Request a Freepage (Free Web Account).

New/Updated Freepages by Counties, States, and Historical Societies
AHGP = American History and Genealogy Project
DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution
UDC = United Daughters of the Confederacy

U.S.A.

  • iamarsh2 — Marshall County (Iowa)
  • iljerse2 — Jersey County (Illinois) AHGP
  • ilmacou2 — Macoupin County (Illinois) AHGP
  • ilmorga3 — Morgan County (Illinois) AHGP
  • ilscott2 — Scott County (Illinois) AHGP
  • kylewis3 — Lewis County (Kentucky) Historical Society
  • kysfbc — Henry County (Kentucky) History of Sulphur Fork Baptist Church
  • msnehgs — Northeast Mississippi (MS) Historical and Genealogical Society
  • pacladar — Clarion County (Pennsylvania) Chapter DAR
  • pawasdar — Washington County (Pennsylvania) DAR
  • txaahpf — Texas (Texas) African American Historic and Preservation Foundation
  • vamtvdar — Mount Vernon (Virginia) Chapter DAR

International

  • deuswdna — Sankt Wendel (Germany) DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA

Some of these Web pages might not be accessible yet. They are created by volunteers, so if one that interests you isn't up yet, please check again in a few days or next week.
www.rootsweb.com/~xxxxxx

Note that the ~[tilde] before the Web account name is required.
For example, the Henry County (Kentucky) Historical and Genealogical Society website is at
www.rootsweb.com/~kysfbc

Request a Freepage (Free Web Account).

New Mailing Lists

New Surname Mailing Lists

New Regional Mailing Lists

  • IL-RHBAL — A mailing list focusing on research hindered by adoption laws in the state of Illinois. Tips will be given for learning more about the adoptee's birth family. Additional topics will include actions to take to open adoption records in Illinois.

New Ethnic or Special Interest Mailing Lists

  • DNB-TRANSCRIPTION — A mailing list to coordinate and paste the transcription of the Dictionary of National Biographies.
  • GENTUTORS — A mailing list for sharing discoveries and techniques in genealogical research.
  • TEXAS-CENTENNIAL — The focus of this list is the 1936 Texas Centennial, including the Dallas and Fort Worth Exposition and statewide celebrations—including construction of nine memorial museums; five community centers; sixteen restorations of historical structures; two park improvements; twenty statues of important Texans; and more than 1,000 historical markers, grave markers, and highway markers. It will be used by Texans and others interested in locating and discussing the centennial items, the people involved, and the restoration of any damaged markers.

To find or subscribe to a mailing list, or to search archived posts to more than 30,000 RootsWeb-hosted genealogy mailing lists, go here.

Request a Mailing List.

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The Darkroom

This photo is of my husband's mother, Georgiana Gladys Beck, on her wedding day. Gladys was born in Stamford, Connecticut, in 1905. She married Richard J. Toole in Rochester, New York, on 3 September 1930.

Donna Toole

For a chance to see your ancestor's photo in the RootsWeb Review, send it to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com. Make sure to include your name and a brief description of the photograph.

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You Found It
The Best Man

When looking through old parish records (Edinburgh Central Records Scotland) to research my wife's family, I came across "Clean Cram" who was a "cautioner" at a wedding. Today he would be called the "Best Man."

Thanks to Geoff Morgan
Not Too Many Joneses

Recently I found an English great-uncle married a Jones girl. I thought I would not bother trying to research such a common and difficult name. But I decided to give it one try and see what came up and lo and behold, she did! Her name? Clara Constance Catherine Julia Jones. Fortunately there are not too many Joneses by that name.

Thanks to Edward A. Heselton

Found a funny name or humorous tidbit in old records, or an amusing entry in census, parish, church, or other records? Send these and other genealogy-related humor/humour items to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

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Permission to reprint articles from RootsWeb Review is granted unless specifically stated otherwise, provided:

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  2. the following notice appears at the end of the article: Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 10 September 2008, Vol. 11, No. 19