Archive for ‘From a Researcher’s Viewpoint’

April 19, 2012

On Source Citations

My son and I have been looking for ideas for a research project he can complete by the end of this school year. I suggested doing a one to three page biography of a family member who lived during a time period he enjoys studying. After a bit of thinking, he decided on a Revolutionary War veteran ancestor who died during that conflict. One reason I suggested this particular ancestor was because I have very little information on him, and what I do have was given to me by other researchers who neglected to put source citations on their documentation.

I wanted to see what, if anything, had already been published on this man and/or his family, so I did a quick search of the Internet.1 In particular, I wanted to see if I could find a source for information given to me about this man’s parents. Lo and behold, one of the first returns for my search was a lengthy article tracing the Revolutionary War veteran’s lineage back to Great Britain, several generations previous, and forward through a collateral line to late-19th century descendants.

The article when printed ran to about 18 pages, so you can imagine the kind of detail included. In spite of its length, there were only eight footnotes, six of which were explanations of items in the text and two of which were truncated source citations.2 I scanned the article looking for in-text, informal citations and found a small handful of vague references like “according to records held” in XYZ county or “land records indicate” or similar remarks.

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March 13, 2012

The Taylor Foundation Workshop

This past Saturday, I attended a workshop presented by the R. J. Taylor Jr. Foundation in Marietta. I went specifically in the hopes of being able to discuss various aspects of the publication process, from transcribing and abstracting to the finished product, with three of the ladies I knew would be attending: Vivian Price, Linda Woodward-Geiger, and Faye Stone Poss.

I was not disappointed. Each of these women took the time to answer my numerous questions with patience and grace before, during, and after the two programs (one by Linda on transcribing and abstracting, and the other by Vivian on building a manuscript). This was the second time I attended a Taylor Foundation workshop. I learned quite a bit both times, not only from the presentations but also from one-on-one discussions with Linda, Vivian, and Faye.

For those who don’t know, the Taylor Foundation provides grants to cover many of the costs of publishing transcriptions, abstracts, or indexes of Georgia records pertaining to those who lived there prior to 1851. There are limitations, but for those willing to do the work, the rewards can be fulfilling if not actually lucrative. If you’re a Georgia researcher and have easy and regular access to Georgia records, then you’re missing a wonderful opportunity by not taking advantage of a Taylor Foundation grant. Here are the rewards I hope to gain:

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March 5, 2012

Are Published Transcriptions Still Necessary?

The advent of Internet genealogy and the rapid growth of online databases of original records have facilitated genealogical research in ways that previous generations could never have imagined. For a small monthly fee, researchers can sit at home and access thousands of census records from around the world through online databases, not to mention military records, city directories, and a growing number of other records. With a few keystrokes and the push of a mouse button, they can contact distant cousins and share information, a process that once took days, if not weeks. They can access digitized copies of hard-to-find out of print genealogies with little more than a Google search.

With all of this emphasis on digital research, should traditional methods be ignored? Specifically, do we still need printed publications, like records transcriptions? To answer those questions, we must consider the nature of both digital and traditional genealogical research.

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March 2, 2012

Hello, Jemima! Now Wait Your Turn…

A recent trip through the Superior Court records of Rabun County netted an interesting connection: an 1838 petition naming Jemima Kell as the sister of James Kell.1

Years ago, another researcher gave me information on Rabun County’s Kells. Not a Jemima amongst them. Ok, no problem, I thought. I’ll just contact that researcher and see if she’s uncovered anything new. Unfortunately, delivery to the e-mail address I had for her failed, and her web site is no longer up. In desperation, I posted to a message board. The researcher I was looking for hasn’t answered yet, but another one has. I’ve queried back for more information. Not knowing this particular other researcher, my imagination is going into overdrive about our anticipated exchange.

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March 1, 2012

The Little Lulu: Painting of the Air Battle

The Internet can be a powerful tool for connecting people. I’ve been trying to post the information I have on my grandfather’s time in the Army Air Corps during World War II, particularly as a crew member of the Little Lulu, a B-24 Liberator assigned to bomb oil refineries in Europe. Daddy Thad (Sgt. Thad J. Watson Sr.) was shot down over then-Czechoslovakia August 24, 1944. One crew member managed to bail out of the airplane, but the remainder, including my grandfather, were killed when the plane crashed.

I knew that my grandmother had corresponded with the residents of the village near where the battle took place. Posting information about the crew of the Little Lulu netted contact with one of those villagers, and now another has created a stunning picture of the battle. The artist is Vit Soukup, son of Jiri Soukup, and the painting is called Thad’s Last Victory. As Jiri said, Vit is a very talented artist.

Please take the time to view this wonderful tribute to my grandfather and the other crew members who died that fateful day.

February 27, 2012

Tidbits and Updates

It’s been a busy few months here in the Watson household.

We just ended basketball season. My sister is the head coach of the local high school varsity ladies basketball team. In the past four years, the Lady Cats have won 88% of their games, gone to State tournies all four years, and reached the Elite 8 three of those years. A phenomenal program. We try to get to every game, or as many as is possible. Those Lady Cats put on a heck of a show and we sure are proud of each and every one, coaches and players alike.

On the book end, Rabun County, Georgia, Newspapers, 1894 – 1899 is at the printers. I hope to have proofs in my hand within three to four weeks, and the finished product for sale another three or four weeks after that. For those who are interested, I’ve already put up an index of death notices and obituaries published in the three newspapers covered by this book.

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February 12, 2012

New Name, New Look, Same Genealogy

If you popped in to read a post and thought you might be at the wrong place, relax. I’ve just been redecorating.

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February 9, 2012

Paying Back, Paying Forward

Note: This post was written during the holiday season of 2011, but not published due to the hectic schedule of the author during that time.

This is the time of year for gift-giving and thankfulness, and it brings to mind two of the main reasons why I spend so much time sharing transcribed documents and helping others with their research.

When I was just beginning to research my family, I had no clue where to turn for help. There were no classes or lectures available nearby, and the local library and historical society shunned genealogists (but, curiously enough, not historians, our kissing cousins). I was, however, very fortunate to know several other historians and genealogists, people who helped me, one way or another, whether they knew it or not.

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January 14, 2012

A Few Days of Rest

After one last push to finalize and polish the manuscript for Rabun County, Georgia, Newspapers, 1894 – 1899 (now with an editor), I took a few well-deserved days off. During that time I worked on some long-term projects I’ve kept on the backburner but which I’d like to finish this year. I spent two days in Morrow at the Georgia Department of Archives and History working on a compilation of records related to slaves, something that should be completed by the end of this year.

By the way, if you’re a Georgia researcher and haven’t written your local legislator about keeping the Archives open, it’s not too late to do so. Every voice counts!

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January 1, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions, Five-Year Plans, and Paths to Professionalism

It’s that time of year again, time to dust off the previous year’s resolutions and revise them to reflect one’s goals for the coming year. This year, instead of making a to-do list I’m making a five-year plan incorporating long-term goals in a way that, I hope, will help me become a better and more productive researcher.

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