Archive for ‘Computerized Genealogy’

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 This journal is not peer reviewed, but it does serve as a place where serious research can be published.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.

January 27, 2011

A recent search for information on processioning led to the discovery of, an outgrowth of American Genealogy Magazine, which was published from 1987 to 1999. now serves as an online repository for articles and databases taken in large part from the now defunct magazine.

This site is a virtual treasure trove for American genealogists. Databases include a plaintiff index to Pickens Dist., SC, Record Book 1 (1828 – 1841), Court of Common Pleas, as well as a host of similar information from Texas, Alabama, and other areas of the United States.

The online articles were originally published in American Genealogy Magazine and include genealogies (in one form or another) of the rich and famous, including several presidents, and how-to articles for those in need of guidance. The latter include such informative pieces as Intermarriage in the Cherokee Nation by James Pylant and Migration Patterns of Our Scottish Ancestors by Myra Vanderpool Gormley. Many of the authors whose articles are inluded in the online database are well-known and highly reputable genealogists and historians.

August 23, 2009

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

Family Enjoying City Named for Their Relative from the Ludington Daily News. An informative article about Sybil Ludington, a Revolutionary War heroine who lived in New York, and the Ludington/Luddington family in general.

Preserving Wedding Pictures by Dick Eastman at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. The pros and cons of taking and preserving pictures digitally.

Family Reunions and Genealogy Games from Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. A brief look at ways to introduce the family to their ancestors through fun and games.

A two-part article written by Michael Hait at called “Using Clusters to Track Your Ancestors Through Multiple Census Years” Part 1 and Part 2. Anyone who is interested in taking their research to the “next level” should study these articles.

July 13, 2009

Posting to Message Boards

Message boards can be a great way to meet other genealogists, and to find out what research has already been performed (and what hasn’t). My favorites are those hosted by Rootsweb and GenForum, but there are many other message boards out there for genealogists.

Unfortunately, message boards are one tool in the genealogist’s toolbox that are highly underutilized, in part because their function is not understood, and in part because many users do not know how to write an effective query.

A message board functions as both a digital meeting grounds and a digital bulletin board. Like records repositories, they are a wonderful place to meet and greet other researchers, to exchange information gathered, and to extend one’s knowledge of a family. Unlike records repositories, which may house both original and derivative information, the information contained in message board posts is always derivative and should be treated as such (that is, it should be verified independently, preferably using a variety of original records).

It is not enough to know that message board posts should be taken with a grain of salt. One must also know how to write an effective query post in order to reach the right researcher. Here are a few examples of poorly written queries:

I am looking for information on James Morgan. Please list everything you have.

Or another post that’s even more broad in nature:

I have just started researching the Morgan family. Please help.

How are other researchers supposed to know to which Morgan family these posts pertain? There simply isn’t enough detail in the post for other researchers to know if they have information on the subjects of these posts or not.

An effective query contains a minimum of the following: the exact name of the individual(s) being sought, dates of any pertinent events along with their associated places, known associates of the individual, the sources of the known information, and the information being sought. Here’s a better example:

I am searching for information on James Morgan, who was born circa 1788 in North Carolina. He appeared with his wife, Elizabeth (maiden name unknown), who was born circa 1780 in North Carolina, on the 1850 and 1860 US censuses for Rabun Co., GA (free population schedules). I also believe this James Morgan was the same James Morgan whose name was drawn to serve as a juror during the June Term, 1848, Inferior Court in Rabun County (see James and Elizabeth’s children are believed to be:

1. Elizabeth Morgan, born circa 1814 in NC, married Joseph Hial Fletcher on February 27, 1848 in Rabun County;
2. Polly Morgan, born circa 1815, who was living with James and Elizabeth in both 1850 and 1860;
3. Martin Morgan, born circa 1820 in NC, married Priscilla Jennings on February 17, 1848 in Rabun County;
4. Jane Morgan, born circa 1824 in Polk Co., TN, married James Fletcher (a possible brother to Joseph Hial Fletcher) on September 5, 1839 in Green Co., TN;
5. Dicy Morgan, born circa 1825 in NC, married Joseph E. Jennings on February 24, 1848 in Rabun County;
6. Beverly Morgan, born circa 1826, married Malinda Bullard on November 29, 1853 in Rabun County.

I am specifically seeking information connecting the suspected children to James and Elizabeth.

The above post is much more effective than the previous two posts because it includes the names of the individuals being sought, enough detail to distinguish this family from other families with similar names, and some of the sources used. It also includes the all-important reason why this query is being posted.

Unlike query letters, message boards are the perfect place to list detail, and lots of it. There is a limit, yes. For instance, posting transcriptions of all known records for one family in a single post might be a bit much (perhaps those should be placed in individual posts under the original message), but a long list of sources used (both original and derivative) would be perfectly appropriate. This is also the place to say I don’t know. For instance, in the above query, one might have added:

Information on the James Fletcher and Jane Morgan family came from another researcher (name and e-mail address available upon request). I presume from the information this researcher sent that the James and Elizabeth Morgan family were in the Polk Co., TN area in the late 1830s, and possibly in adjacent Western NC before and after, but I have not yet verified this.

See? A simple, painless, and honest I don’t know that lets other researchers know what avenues have and have not been explored. More importantly, it shows that a basic analysis of the gathered material has taken place.

Message boards offer endless opportunities to the savvy researcher who remembers to be specific and include details. Plus, the posts remain open indefinitely, allowing future researchers to find and contact past ones, as long as e-mail addresses are maintained and kept current.

April 1, 2009

Historic Georgia Newspapers

Valerie over at Begin with ‘Craft’ has compiled a nifty list of historic Georgia newspapers whose images have been digitized and placed online. All of the sites she mentions are for-pay, but this list will help you compare what’s online and where so that you can determine which subscriptions you might need to purchase in order to access these wonderful resources.

If you’re old school and would rather use the microfilm, the University of Georgia initiated a Georgia Newspaper Project several years ago, wherein they attempted to track down and microfilm extant copies of all known historic Georgia newspapers. To search the online catalogue of the collection, you will need to know the city where the newspaper was published. As far as I know, the University of Georgia is the only repository holding the entire microfilmed collection, although other libraries and research repositories should have microfilmed copies of historic newspapers which were published in or near their locality.

Begin with ‘Craft’ is an excellent guide to online resources for those researching in Georgia. Valerie’s posts are well-written, concise, and informative, and I highly recommend her work for those who need that extra helping hand to find their Peach State ancestors.