Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Thoughts on Private Trees

Tree image used courtesy of ClipArt Panda.
Private trees generate much discussion in the genealogical community, particularly when it comes to DNA. Those with private trees provide a number of reasons for making their trees unavailable to others--adoptions and non-paternal events, work in progress, plagiarism or unauthorized use of their data and images in books or publications by others, the way they use their tree (such as to sort out multiple persons with the same name), and an admission of the tree's messiness.

I agree with the right to keep one's tree private, but I also believe many with private trees who took or manage DNA tests could benefit from a stripped-down public tree which would provide useful information for their matches. I used this option when I realized I wanted to use Ancestry to  review of older genealogical data and expand my tree. My main tree is private. I plan to make it public at some point, but not until I am far enough back in my review to make it useful.

Adoptees and persons with non-paternal events have valid reasons for keeping their trees private. It is absolutely the right thing to do when the situation demands privacy because of sensitive information regarding living individuals which might be revealed because their identity might be deduced through those who are no longer living.

All trees are a work in progress. If you are uncertain about a conclusion, find a work-around. Add notes and comments. I often do this in one of the viewable options such as the birth field. For instance, I might want to include a note to let others know the parents of an ancestor is a built case rather than one relying on documentation. Although no evidence located to date overturns the conclusion, it is a case which needs to be reviewed in light of DNA evidence. It is a conclusion I feel needs to be strengthened. A note in the birth field for the ancestor and a note somewhere on his parents' individual pages asking other descendants to contact me might actually be helpful.

Many persons are concerned with other individuals copying their work or using their images in books, blog posts, and other works. The typical reply to those persons is, "If you do not want your work or images used by others, do not post it online." For those of us who began our genealogical quest before the days of the Internet, we remember this was a concern even in the days of print media. Some persons who sent information to cousins always found "their work" showing up in other publications, usually without attribution. It even happened to me a few times. In the digital age, it is easier to do. If we make information available online, other people will look at it, and use it. Some will cite it; others will not. Is making the tree private the solution? I personally do not think so. I grew more discerning when others requested information. I simply did not offer to send "everything" to individuals. I asked what information they were seeking, offering an answer to their specific need. I might be able to help them through a brick wall so they could continue their own research. In fact, I sometimes asked them if they had looked at a specific set of records where I uncovered the answer rather than giving it to them. To me, the Ancestry default view is a presentation of facts. Facts must be documented and correlated. It is difficult to steal facts. Adding images from personal collections is completely optional. If a person posts these and makes the images publicly available, other people can and will benefit. I suspect all of us use scanned images of records others provided on their trees, particularly when a visit to a particular repository would be required to obtain them. Most of us just attach them to our own trees without downloading them since Ancestry offers the option, but some people download them. When downloading, it is good practice to add a citation to the image in your photo-editing software so you know the provenance of the image. If you are still concerned with plagiarim or with others using your work, utilize the private option, but also create a stripped-down public version of the the tree.

I often run across trees where identities of two or more persons with the same name are merged into one individual. In this morning's discussion, one person admitted to placing information on seven men of the same name and approximate same name in the same location in one individual to sort it out. While I think better tools for sorting exist, some researchers feel this works for them. I usually use Excel spreadsheets or Word tables, which are color-coded as I assign information to one of the individuals. The old-fashioned note card method also works. Why not have a second public tree which contains only proven information on direct lines?

If your tree is messy, would it be easier to begin a second tree containing only proven information and document it as you go rather than trying to sort through the mess? Would a third tree containing only proven direct line ancestors with stripped-down information help you and your DNA matches in the meantime?

I mentioned a stripped-down public version of a tree in several places. This tree needs to contain the full name of the person along with any nicknames. (For example, Salome Olive "Ollie" Lantz.) It also needs to include birth/marriage/death dates and locations. Sometimes geography is the key to locating the match or the line from which the match is likely to come. My stripped down tree only contains direct-line ancestors. I do, however, build out the tree to other relatives who tested so I can get by with only a single tree. I even build their direct lines back a few generations.

You have a right to keep your tree private, but please consider offering a stripped-down public version of your tree for DNA matching purposes.


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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Can Potential Members Locate Your Historical or Genealogical Society?


Several months after sending a mailing to historical and genealogical societies in the state of Tennessee to make sure they knew about the then upcoming National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh, I continue to receive some back which were undeliverable. I tried to locate current information on each society through their web sites. If I was unable to locate it, I used the address we had on file from the 2009 conference. Each packet included a copy of the 16-page brochure as well as a letter from me, a fellow Tennessee genealogist. While I did not make an official calculation, based on the number returned to me and the approximate number I sent, about ten percent were returned.

Many societies are in a "dying state." Could it be because they are not reaching potential members? In the 21st century, an online presence is essential. Some societies lack one. In many cases, web sites look abandoned. If your site's design is from the 1990s or early 2000s, people question whether it still exists. Setting the "last updated" code to read the current date does not fool those who stumble upon your site. Many apparently up-to-date sites lack a means of contacting the society.

Your society's web site should include both an email address or contact form and a current "snail mail" address. If your society has a dedicated facility, be sure to include a phone number as well. Your web presence can attract new members. Describe the benefits of joining the society. List the benefits of membership--your newsletter or journal (and its frequency), publication discounts, discounts to workshops, a library for members, etc. Include information on categories of membership (individual, family, life, etc.) and the current price of each of these. Some societies offer PDF forms which may be printed and mailed or options to purchase memberships online using PayPal. Offer a sample newsletter or journal to site visitors.

I located a few societies relying only on a Facebook presence. They are missing a chance to reach many potential members who do not use social media. If your society does use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, be sure to include information on your web site so people know how to follow you.

If your society sells books or back issues, make sure to have an up-to-date page providing information on the publications along with costs (including shipping and tax, if applicable) so libraries and individuals know of their availability. Some societies offer PDF order forms to mail back and/or the ability to order using PayPal.

Make sure your web site is not contributing to your society's demise. Provide and keep contact information updated.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Israel Matters


McDermott, Gerald R. Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2017.


Author McDermott shares why he changed his thinking on Israel in relation to Biblical prophecy. He offers reasons why Christians should care about what happens to the nation of Israel and attempts to dispel the error of replacement theology. He also discusses the land occupied by the Jews and offers reasons it belongs to them. While McDermott does a fairly good job, I find myself wishing my pastor would write a book on the topic because he does a far better job of explaining the Jewishness of the Gospels and discussing Israel in relation to prophecy. I received an electonic advance review copy of the title from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.


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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mexican Ice Cream



Gerson, Fany. Mexican Ice Cream: Beloved Recipes and Stories. California: Ten Speed Press, 2017.

This is an amazing collection of recipes for sorbets and ice creams from different regions of Mexico. The author spends time discussing traditions, the regions, and the ingredients. It includes traditional recipes as well as some more modern takes on the favorite dessert of summer. While I'm not likely to make the ice cream that featured grasshoppers as an ingredient, it was interesting. The author includes a recipe for sugar cones as well as for several toppings. The recipes do require an ice cream churn/freezer. I received an electronic copy of an e-galley for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. However, I liked this book so much I'm certain I'll be ordering my own copy before summer.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Blue Cat of Castle Town


Coblentz, Catherine Cate. The Blue Cat of Castle Town. 1947, reprint. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2017.

Note: The reprint is scheduled for release on July 19, 2017. Because older editions may be available in libraries, I decided to release the review ahead of that date.

How did I miss this book when I was younger? Today's readers can thank Dover Publications for bringing this Newbery Honor book back into print. It's the story of a blue cat who must teach his song to others to find his place on a hearth. His song is the song of the river. He wanders around Castle Town, Vermont where he witnesses village life. It's from a simpler time and place. It's a place where spinning wheels and weaving still exist. It's a place where the local carpenter still feels the need to do his best work on the pulpit in the Lord's house, even if it means losing his $1.50 in daily wages or using some of his savings even with a baby on the way. This book gave me a sense of that time and place, and I loved it. The illustrations by Janice Holland were well-done. I received an electronic advance review copy of this title from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

Special note for genealogists: I think you'll enjoy this one. It does provide that census of place and connectedness we love.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

50 Essential Books for My Home Genealogy Library

Yesterday I came across a post on Facebook that was headlined "50 Titles Considered Essential to Your Personal Library." It was linked to an article entitled "Build the Perfect At-Home Library." I knew the post would mostly include great works of literature with a few non-fiction works thrown into the mix.

I pondered what would be included if this were a genealogical library. I realized immediately that each genealogist would come up with a different list because of research specialties or where ancestors lived. What follows is a list of fifty that works for my own research interests. I invite others to come up with their own list of fifty.

1) Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills. (Yes. We need to cite those sources!)
2) North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History by Helen F. M. Leary. (Everyone needs this one regardless of whether or not one has North Carolina ancestry.)
3) Genealogy Standards by Board for Certification of Genealogists.
4) Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones.
5) Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case by Christine Rose.
6) A Law Dictionary: Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America and of the Several States of the American Union by John Bouvier. (This one is online in multiple places and works really well for those of us researching in Southern States. Black's Law Dictionary, 4th edition, will also fulfill this requirement.)
7) Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
8) Evidence!: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills. (I still use those first two chapters.)
9) Rand McNally Road Atlas by Rand McNally Corporation. (Any good road atlas with lots of small towns will work.)
10) The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger.
11) Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne.
12) Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin by Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray.
13) Land & Property Research in the United States by E. Wade Hone.
14) The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Ancestry.com.
15) The Handybook for Genealogists by George B. Everton.
16) The Amish in America by David Luthy. (I love this one because of the sketches of the Amish communities.)
17) Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide.
18) The Formation of North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943 by David Leroy Corbitt.
19) The Genealogist's Guide to Researching Tax Records by Carol Cook Darrow.
20) Understanding and Using Baptismal Records by John T. Humphrey.
21) They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record by John Philip Colletta.
22) Inheritance in Colonial Virginia by Barbara Vines Little.
23) Tracing Your Mississippi Ancestors by Anne S. Lipscomb and Kathleen S. Hutchison
24) North Carolina Wills: A Testator Index by Thornton W. Mitchell.
25) Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures by Christine Rose.
26) Military Pension Laws, 1776-1858: From the Journals of the Continental Congress and the United States Statutes-at-Large by Christine Rose.
27) Military Bounty Land, 1776-1855 by Christine Rose.
28) History for Genealogists: Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestor by Judy Jacobson.
29) Pitfalls in Genealogical Research by Milton Rubincam.
30) Virginia Genealogy: Sources & Resources by Carol McGinnis.
31) Tracing Your Alabama Past by Robert Scott Davis.
32) Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records by Patricia Law Hatcher.
33) Georgia Research: A Handbook for Genealogists, Historians, Archivists, Lawyers, Librarians, and Other Researchers by Robert Scott Davis.
34) Genealogy and the Law: A Guide to Legal Sources for the Family Historian by Kay Haviland Freilich and William B. Freilich.
35) The Chicago Manual of Style. (16th edition.)
36) Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants: Awarded by State Governments by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck.
37) American Settlers and Migrations: A Primer for Genealogists and Family Historians by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck.
38) Guide to County Records and Genealogical Resources in Tennessee by Richard Carlton Fulcher.
39) North Carolina Taxpayers, 1701-1786 by Clarence E. Ratcliff.
40) North Carolina Taxpapers, 1679-1790 by Clarence E. Ratcliff.
41) Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries and Their Residents by Douglas Keister. (Gives some great info on the symbols on tombstones.)
42) Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama: A Resource Guide by Frazine K. Taylor.
43) Genealogical Research in Ohio by Kip Sperry.
44) Estate Inventories: How to Use Them by Kenneth L. Smith.
45) Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide by John Grenham.
46) Guide to County Records in the North Carolina State Archives.
47) The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe by James M. Beidler.f
48) American Naturalization Records, 1790-1990: What They Are and How to Use Them by John J. Newman.
49) New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Diane Rapaport.
50) Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research by Michael J. LeClerc.

Many of the next fifty slots would go to National Genealogical Society's Research in the States series. A few of them could easily have been included in this list, but I opted to include none without including the others I frequently use. I also find DeLorme's Atlas & Gazetteer series for individual states quite useful. I use my Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee ones frequently.

I'm certain I left out something I should have included. It is not necessarily in order of importance. It's just my feeble effort to come up with a top 50 list when there are so many great resources out there from which to choose.

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Heading Out: A History of American Camping



Young, Terence. Heading Out: A History of American Camping. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2017.

Terence Young looks at the phenomenon of camping in America, tracing its evolution over the years. He discusses problems the national parks had with campers and how that led to individual campsites. He also discusses how camping evolved from fairly primitve conditions to RVs. Young's work focuses mainly on camping within the national park and forest systems. The book needed to spend time discussing privately-owned campgrounds, including those with memberships, and chains, such as KOA, or affiliation of privately owned campgrounds with networks such as Good Sam. In spite of this one weakness, it was a very interesting and informative read. I've been reading quite a bit about the formation of Great Smoky Mountain National Park in preparation for an upcoming lecture I'm giving. I was delighted to see the author included some information regarding the way land was acquired for it and Shenanadoah National Park to give the system an Eastern United States presence, although it wasn't new information for me. This review is based on an advance reader's e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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