Archive for ‘Book and Article Reviews: Genealogy’

February 7, 2013

Paul K. Graham and Georgia’s Land Lotteries

If you’ve spent any time researching ancestors in 19th century Georgia, then you’ve probably used Georgia’s land lottery records. Indexes of many of these records were previously published and are still in print through vendors like Southern Historical Press. Unfortunately, many of these published indexes are difficult to use because of the way they were formatted, often with fortunate drawers listed by county and no master index.

And then came Paul K. Graham. Among his other achievements, Paul has a deep background in land records, including a professional certificate in Geographic Information Systems from Georgia State University. Along with his work as a genealogist, this makes him the perfect candidate to compile and publish updated information about Georgia’s land records.

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January 3, 2013

Free Census Resource Courtesy of Michael Hait, and a Few Other Things as Well

Michael Hait recently announced the release of a free PDF e-book, U. S. Census Pathfinder. Yes, my friends, this is a free resource for those who want to find information about U. S. censuses on the web. But don’t take my word for it. Reviews are abounding, including a thorough one by Judy G. Russell.

If you haven’t poked around Michael’s professional web site, please take the time to do so. In addition to a list of publications, with links to online articles where available, many free to the public, Michael has generously placed several case studies and other free resources on his web site as well. There are plenty of fascinating and informative tidbits available there for researchers of any stripe.

Happy hunting!

December 28, 2012

Home(work) for the Holidays

It may seem like an odd thing to do, but at the end of a project I often suggest specific resources for clients to study, on the (perhaps misguided) belief that an educated client is a happy client. This homework, so to speak, often takes the form of reading material, especially research articles that highlight a problem similar to the one the client is trying to solve or that cover families in the same geographic area.

These suggestions are drawn from material that I’ve found particularly helpful, and I’m constantly looking for new articles or studying ones with which I’m already familiar in the hopes of refining my own understanding of research techniques and strategies.

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February 1, 2011

Open Access Journals

Continuing with the theme of interesting online items…

One of the ways in which genealogists learn their craft is by studying the work of others. There are many publications available to assist with this goal, including a number of reputable journals (see Recommended Books). While many genealogical journals are now available online to subscribers or through databases such as those maintained by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, their main method of distribution remains the printed medium (i.e. on paper). There are, however, two genealogical journals now published exclusively online. Both are open access, meaning there are no subscription fees to enjoy the content.

The first is Annals of Genealogical Research, edited by Robert S. Shaw. This journal is not peer reviewed, but it does serve as a place where serious research can be published. For instance, Dawn C. Stricklin’s recent article Reconstructed African-American Cemeteries: Colored Masonic Cemetery, Farmington, St. Francis Co., MO is as much a teaching article (how to reconstruct burials in a cemetery with unmarked graves) as it is a contribution to the fields of genealogy, history, and anthropology. Unfortunately, Annals is not published on a regular basis, possibly because of a lack of submissions, but possibly also because of a lack of awareness within the genealogical community about its existence. Setting up an editorial board and implementing a peer review system would probably go a long way towards pushing this much-needed outlet to the forefront in the minds of genealogical authors.

The Journal of Genetic Genealogy is peer reviewed, and is edited by Blaine T. Bettinger, better known as the Genetic Genealogist. This journal has been published nearly every spring and fall since 2005. As the title implies, the focus is on the application of genetics to the field of genealogy. The result is a fascinating body of multidisciplinary work. Recent issues include “Where Have all the Indians Gone? Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal, Genealogy and DNA in Relation to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony of Roanoke” by Roberta Estes (Volume 5, Number 2, Fall 2009) and “On the Propagation of Mitochondrial Mutations” by Ian Long (Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2009), as well as Special Sections dealing particularly with Y-DNA Projects and Cluster Analysis. This journal is a must-read for anyone interested in genetic genealogy and related academic disciplines.

Serious scholarship includes the study of the literature of one’s field. Genealogy is no exception. The advent of open access journals such as the two named can only serve to assist in this endeavour.

June 16, 2010

Brick Walls and Genealogy Journals

I have been “doing family history” for about 25 years now. I like solving puzzles and learning or trying out different methodologies; in fact, I would even go so far as to say that I crave the challenges presented by a new brick wall.

The problem being, of course, that I’ve been stuck on the same set of brick walls in my own ancestry for quite a while now. (Sound familiar?) Even though I’ve made some headway recently, the fact remains that the names are all the same; after a while, and almost inevitably, boredom and frustration set in.

One way I counter this is by turning to other family histories; not by pursuing new lines of research, but by reading published histories compiled by other genealogists. There are a number of incredibly reputable journals that have been published over the past few decades, and some much longer: The American Genealogist, The Genealogist, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, to name a few.

My favorite, though, is The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, aka the NGSQ. Part of the reason why it’s my favorite is purely practical: I’m a member of the NGS, and so have ready, online access to all issues of the NGSQ from 1988 to the present. But there are other reasons as well. The NGSQ covers a wider variety of eras and problems than the other named journals, and many of the more recent articles over the past twenty-odd years are “teaching” articles; that is, they were written with the student genealogist in mind, logically ordered so that the whole method behind the madness is explained. This allows others, those who are stuck behind a stubbornly resistant brick wall, to take that methodology and apply it to their own problems.

Each time I read an NGSQ article, I find my mind turning to a similar problem I’ve faced in finding my own ancestors. The Eureka! moment hits (Aha, here’s what I can do to solve that problem), and my fingers itch for pen and paper so I can capture the ideas as they flower. My thirst for the chase is renewed, and I am ready once again to continue the ceaseless battering against the never-ending supply of brick walls my ancestors have thrown up.

September 11, 2009

Barbara McRae and Teresita Press

I am a huge fan of working with original rather than derivative versions of records, but every once in a while, a published work comes along that is of such a caliber as to make it not only a necessary addition to the home library, but a highly functional one.

Such is the case with Macon County, NC in the 1850 Census: A Snapshot in Time compiled by Barbara McRae and published by Teresita Press, a small, private press founded by McRae that specializes in the publication of genealogical and historical information, particularly in record transcriptions.

A Snapshot in Time includes a transcription of not only the free population schedule from the 1850 US Census, but also includes transcriptions of each of the other schedules for this census, including mortality, agriculture, industry, and slave. The free population and agriculture production schedules are intermingled so that on each page one may find the household as it was enumerated in the free population schedule at the top of the page, and running along the bottom (on that page or within a few pages), one could see the same household’s farming output, if any were made for that household. The whole is fully indexed and bound in a tight spiral binding.

The best part of A Snapshot in Time isn’t its completeness or the well-organized index; the best part of this work is in its accuracy. Inevitably, in any derivation, errors creep in, most notably due to misreading the scribe’s handwriting. This work is no exception; however, the errors are so minimal as to be overlooked. When one compares this book to microfilmed versions of the 1850 US Census for Macon County, one will inevitably find the names transcribed correctly, and when one thumbs through the index, one can be reasonably certain of its completeness.

Such accuracy is the hallmark of a professional of McRae’s caliber. A long-time editor of The Franklin Press, Macon County’s paper of record, McRae also writes a long-standing column for the paper called Know Your County, which focuses on the area’s historicity. McRae cut her genealogical teeth with the column, and moved on to Records of Old Macon County, North Carolina, 1829-1850, a wonderful abstract of Macon County’s earliest deed books that has been reprinted by Clearfield Company, a division of Genealogical Publishing Company.

McRae has, alone and with the help of others, compiled derivations of other important early records for Macon County, many available through Teresita Press. Researchers of the old Macon County area are fortunate to have such resources to use as a supplement to the original official records.

April 10, 2009

Southwestern North Carolina Genealogical Society Quarterly

Local historical and genealogical society newsletters are often an excellent source of information about an area’s records. One such example is that of the Southwestern North Carolina Genealogical Society Quarterly, which covered the counties of Cherokee, Graham, and Clay in Western North Carolina.

The SWNCGSQ was published from Winter 1984 (Volume I, Number I) to Fall 1994 (Volume XI, Number IV). Articles were primarily record extractions and queries; a large amount of coverage was given to marriage records, cemetery surveys, census indexes, and lists of delayed birth certificates for all three counties, with member-contributed pedigree charts and family group sheets thrown in for good measure.

At some point after the SWNCGSQ ceased publication, a surname index was compiled covering all issues. The index can be found at the public libraries located within Cherokee, Clay, and Graham Counties. Issues of the quarterly are available at the same locations and in the Family History Library.