Sunday, September 19, 2004

Reflections of a County Coordinator

As a USGenWeb county coordinator, I get to see a wide variety of expectations from those who visit the Web sites. There are those who realize that the sites are hosted by volunteers who are doing what they can go make resources available for each county they maintain. There are those who are upset with the volunteers because there is something "missing" from data submitted by someone or from an out of copyright source that has been posted (or one for which permission has been granted to post although still protected by copyright). Then there are those who think that the county coordinators conduct on site genealogical research without charge.

In my years of working on my family history, I've learned that genealogy is NOT an inexpensive pasttime. I have made lots of on site visits to libraries, courthouses, and other local sites to conduct research. A good researcher knows that s/he must budget for these--gas, hotel rooms, copies, admission, food, etc. I've also spent a lot of money in postage and for copies of documents from the National Archives and state and county sources.

I am not bothered when it is a new researcher who just does not know where to begin their reserach. I try to offer advice on places to begin their research and offer tips for researching on location when I've done extensive research in a county myself. What bothers me are those researchers who want people to do their work for them.

There is so much stuff out on the Internet that is inaccurate when it pertains to family history research. I would much rather spend my time finding good sources like land deeds, probate records, and newspaper articles, etc. than relying on an undocumented GEDCOM that is probably so full of errors that it will literally lead you up the wrong family tree. If I use a GEDCOM, I do not merge it into my database. I won't put any of the information in my database until I can verify it in some manner. I sometimes add an "unattached" line if I see a line that based on my own research becomes interesting because of similarities in naming patterns, etc. that make me suspect a connection that I'll later be able to document.

So many of the message boards in one area where I research have become totally worthless because two or three people started collecting every family group sheet and GEDCOM for the county (undocumented, of course) they could and began to post information to the message boards any time they saw the name. Guess what? Members of the historical society who have documented these lines have estimated that about 50% of the information that these data collectors post to the message boards (and mailing lists) is erroneous. Besides that, these people have no regard for copyright laws or for privacy of living individuals. All of these are big no-nos in my book.

As family historians, we need to strive for excellence in our research. We need to make sure that what we publish is true. If something is not proven, we need to identify it as probable or possible or in some way indicate that the true conclusion may differ.

'Nuff said for now.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Sunday Thoughts

We had a fascinating discussion in Sunday school this morning. We were discussing Revelation 14 and got to the part of the mark of the beast. Discussion veered to some of the things going on with today's youth that closely resembles this. It's really quite scary.

I haven't done a whole lot of genealogical research this weekend, but I've cross-stitched quite a bit. I'm working on a Dimensions kit that I picked up some time ago. At one time I think I was overwhelmed by how big the project was. I've now got the ability to stick with projects for a longer period of time and know the importance of rotation of projects so that if you get tired of something, you put it out of rotation for a time and then move it back in. The second time I picked up the project, I got frustrated because I'd miscounted and had to "frog" quite a few stitches. This time I'm really enjoying it and think I'll make it through it! I still haven't decided what I'm going to do with the section where I was supposed to be using 3 threads and only used 2 for the water, but I can deal with that later. That was one of the errors caused by picking it back up after awhile but forgetting the water used 3 threads.

Need to prepare my lectures for Monday's class. Need to see if I can locate "fresh" material for them.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Can DNA testing help crack brick wall?

Our Thornton line has been stuck for years at a brick wall. No one can seem to determine who the parents of Richard Thornton are. I've been reading about the Thornton Y-Chromosome DNA Project and wondering if it might help solve the mystery of which bunch of Thorntons our line is descended from. I wrote an article in the most recent issue of The Thornton News telling family members about the project and what I thought it might be able to do to assist in our research. Without actually soliciting funds, one family member has already spoken up saying he'll donate towards having one person participate in the project. I really think if we can get enough support to sponsor a participant that we might be able to focus our research in more productive manners so the brick wall gets chipped away.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Watching the Hurricane

I've been spending a lot of time watching the coverage of Hurricane Frances. My heart goes out to those affected by the storm.

I had corresponded with a lady regarding the Harris surname sometime back. At that time, neither of us had positively identified our John J. Harris. Now we have both found that ours is the same one - the one in Dime Box, Lee Co., Texas. She's actually a direct descendant, and he's only the brother of my great grandmother. It's exciting to find a new cousin.