Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Genealogical instincts

I've been relying on my instincts as of late when it comes to my genealogy research. And lately my research has become a lot like a detective solving a mystery, maybe even like Nancy Drew, a favorite of mine. But I've recently been re-reading the Sue Grafton 'Alphabet' mysteries since her latest one the letter 'V' is due out this coming November. I'm up to 'G is for Gumshoe' and discovered just why I enjoyed reading the books the first time. Kinsey Milhone, the main character a private detective works in much the same way an amateur genealogist does. Unlike the police department which has access to records of all kinds, Kinsey and genealogists alike don't and have to rely on finding records and information in her case in other more creative ways.

But genealogists, much like Kinsey and even Nancy Drew have to also rely on their instincts especially when they encounter a new client or in my case a record that leaves me with some suspicion about whether its completely reliable. Sometimes most of the information within the record is so overwhelming as far as being convincing that instincts shouldn't play a part but do anyway. In most cases the particular record is the ONLY one that makes the most sense given what I happen to be searching for. Thus is the case of the Wilkins line that I believe is the maiden name of Mary Eliza (or Elizabeth), wife of MY John Robinson, parents of my 2nd great-grandfather Edmund Lowell Robinson.

None of the other names, dates, places or even families come close to making plausible sense other than John Wilkins and Harriet Sockett Francis who happened to have a daughter, Mary Elizabeth, born 10 Feb 1824. In fact, other than Mary and her 'brother' David Francis Henry, I haven't been able to track their siblings except in Canadian census records because Mary and David are the only ones that married. The more frustrating thing is David's wife's maiden name is, you guessed it Robinsons and her father's name is JOHN; her mother's name is MARY. That is the THIRD couple that share the names of my ancestors, with ONE difference, this particular John was born in Ireland and NOT England, which doesn't make him any easier to track, especially if HE was my ancestor.

I just find it completely ironic that the John Robinson I started out with wasn't mine and yet one actually ends up becoming linked to MY John Robinson because of marriage. My point is my instincts are telling me that John Wilkins and Harriet Sockett Francis ARE Mary Eliza's parents and not just because they happened to have a daughter with her name but because per David Francis Henry Wilkins' marriage record, two of her children are witnesses AND her MOTHER is prominent in the Canadian census records as either living with John Robinson and family or vice versa with them living with her. Either way, each census record has the senior Harriet (she had a daughter named Harriet as well) in close proximity to the Robinsons. I feel strongly enough that the evidence is enough to tell me that I can add the Wilkins and Francis names to my family tree. Unfortunately the other John Robinson's line traces further back but again is only linked to mine by marriage. The moral, your instincts are something you not only cannot ignore but can't take for granted either. If they are telling you that the line you are researching is connected to your tree, take the next step and find more evidence to convince yourself your instincts are right.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More Records with images at FamilySearch

About every month or so the website FamilySearch.org updates their databases of records and/or images and most of those updates involve adding more records to their growing collection. The records come from people that are 'indexing' those records so that us genealogists can search for information more quickly. Sometimes the updates also include adding images along with records which for me is a must when doing research.

Last week they did a little of both and for the past couple of days I've been searching for records, this time around its marriage record IMAGES for Ohio which include ALL counties. I see only one drawback to this addition of records and images. Usually you can save the particular image to your computer's hard drive, which is what I do, and then can crop and print it later so that you don't get a whole page of dark space which uses all of your ink. But with the marriage record images it isn't so simple. I tried doing it that way and unfortunately the images are too big to crop in the program I have (a basic version of Adobe Photoshop) and even if I print them full size, then scan them and THEN crop it down to the specific record (since the images are two pages containing several records on each) they are just unreadable. What to do?

The FamilySearch website as the 'print' option already there and you can print a specific area BUT be careful when doing this because even if you get a nice close up of the record you want it doesn't mean that when you go to print you'll be able to read it. Also if the record is in the middle of either page OR its an early marriage record, the page itself won't have source information on it so you have to click back one page to where that information is and make a notation on the printout.

The later records, like those AFTER say 1900 contain much more information, including the parents names of both the bride AND groom and also whether they (either or both) have been married before and what the status of that marriage currently is. (Remember just because it says one party is 'divorced' doesn't mean its written in stone). The later records also offer occupations of the prospective couple, which is sometimes interesting if you didn't already know what they did for a living.

Some researchers think going over and over the same information is a waste of time but I don't think that's the case at all. Doing repeated searches for some individuals can in turn help you find more information and in some cases information you didn't previously know about, like occupations. It pays to going over it again especially when websites like FamilySearch add records that include images. Don't always rely on the indexed records as they aren't always complete especially when the image itself shows more.