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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Family history etiquette

Someone recently emailed me very apologetically saying they weren't sure how to begin their request.  Also recently, someone requested information which I sent with a request to reciprocate which hasn't happened.

Our modern world has lost a lot of etiquette.  On the other hand, there have been time and, certainly, individuals that carry their personal sense of etiquette too far.  So, I thought I'd write a little about my sense of etiquette in family history.

For me, etiquette is both selfish and generous in its bases.  

You know the old saying:  "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Well, if you want something from someone; in this case, family information, and if you assume that person may continue to be a source of information, then you want to treat them with respect and appreciation for what they can provide you. So, you ask politely, "please", and give them the "thank you"; as most of us were taught.

If you have information that others may want, you understand the value of what others may be able to give to you and you value that and give to them, "thank you", what you would want to be given to you.  The golden rule.

If you fail to understand the value of what others give to you, whatever it might be, at some point you will find yourself ignored and I'm not talking just about me.

It's really just a matter of common courtesy that all children used to be taught at a very young age:  Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, Excuse me.  Nothing difficult.  

There's no reason not to ask but remember that no is a possible response, so yes merits a thank you.  There's no right way to ask, just ask.

Visit the Beismer page (see top menu) to see a little nugget that I found.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Notes on our Beismer family are on their way to the Sullivan County Historical Society where, I assume, they will be available to everyone.  They're printed on acid-free paper so, hopefully, they'll last a while.  The packet of notes don't include everything but they're too long to post here.  The notes include working notes and charts for the families.  I'm not finished with any of the research but I'm stuck at brick walls for nearly every family and thought I should get these notes out where, maybe, some other relatives or researchers can find them and, maybe, fill in some holes.

I started compiling these notes for families that have lived in Sullivan County because I'm a member of that historical society and they've already told me they accept this kind of donation.  I'm moving back and forth between my maternal and paternal lines.

In the process of getting the Beismer notes together, I found out that there's a book on the family and I'm trying to find out if there are copies available somewhere.  I'll let you know if there are.

If you would like your own copy of the notes I've just completed, it will be $8.00, which barely covers the cost of printing (paper and ink), the binder and shipping. The notes are about 63 pages long.  You can contact me at familytracker@yahoo.com.  I prefer to accept PayPal payments.

I will be contacting the Ulster and Delaware County Historical Societies, where the family also lived, to see if they accept this type of donation and will post here when they're sent there.

I'm now working on similar notes for the Odell/Oliver clan.

I'll post here whenever I get notes sent out.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Excellent article about something I recently discovered on a couple of web sites, on my own.  Not everything, in all online databases, are indexed.

In addition, there are many, many transcription errors.  I've found relatives' and ancestors' names transcribed incorrectly because, of course, I know their names and I'm looking for them but the transcribers have only the written, microfilmed, digitized images to work with and do their best to transcribe and index what they see.  Some have been so obvious to me that I react incredulously, at first, then realize that I have the advantage of knowing exactly who a particular family is.

On Ancestry, in particularly, you can submit corrections, although I only seen a few of my corrections implemented.  Again, consider the size of the collections at Ancestry and imagine the number of staff they have to deal with all of them and with the submissions.

Just another example of size limiting quality.

So, browsing the images of individual databases is a solution to overcoming the limitation of indexing of online databases.  For example, if you know a person was living in a particular town in Sullivan County, NY in 1850 and the same town in 1860 but the index for the 1855 NYS census doesn't show that person or anyone in their family, there's a chance that they're not indexed.  There's also a chance that the census taker or the transcriber misspelled their surname. If you need the information from that census, you have to go the 1855 NYS census, to that town and look for them.  If you still don't find them, it might be worth your time to browse other towns nearby.

Another tactic is the following:  Say you have a John Whatever, age 49, in Town X, Sullivan Co., NY on the 1850 census.  You've also found him, age 59, same town, on the 1860 census.  In 1855, he would have been 53-56, depending on his birthdate.  Say his surname was Spate but, the census taker had bad handwriting and his surname looks like Spole on the 1855 census and that's how his name was transcribed and indexed.  Unless you make a wild guess that was the mistake, you'll never find him.  But, you can try this:  At Ancestry, do a search in the 1855 NYS census database for John, no surname, and his birth year.  Since you know that he was living in Sullivan County before and after that census, you can add that in the search.  You can add the name of his wife, as well.  Using wildcards in this particular search is not advised.

You'll get a substantial list of individuals but the more information you include in the search, the shorter the list.  The list will be partially alphabetized.  

Happy searching.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I very recently purchased another genealogy software package, about $40.  It got me started thinking about the expenses I’ve had over the years, doing family history research and I thought it might be of interest just how much some of us obsessed with this put into it.

I’ve been researching ALL my families since my mid-20s, over 35 years.  I research All my families because we are all related to all the families we are genetically linked to, not just our father’s direct line.

I used to have to run around to various libraries, Mormon family history centers, historical societies, cemeteries, and relatives and, if you think about it, that costs money as well; gas.

I’ve “borrowed” (rented) microfilm and books from various collections.  I’ve occasionally stayed overnight in order to visit some library or historical society.  I paid vacation time driving to some place to find out something.

I’m a paying member of Ancestry.com (just the US material) and that costs a lot.  I’m a member of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society even now, years after they gave the bulk collection to New York Public Library (heartbreaking for me).  I have and still occasionally travel into Manhattan (not cheap) to visit both collections.

I’m a member of a few historical societies in New York state as much to support the organization as to hope to get any useful information from them.
I’ve purchased a number of vital records of family members, the cost of which has nearly quadrupled during these research years.  I just sent for Stephen Wormuth’s military records; $30.

I’ve had copy negatives made from borrowed family photos, including quite an expensive one from a tintype of Grandma Margaret “Maggie” Wormuth Beismer.  I’ve printed copies of scanned photos I have and given them to relatives.

Grandma is front left and it occurs to me that it's Charles, front right, and that might be one of the older sisters behind them.

I’ve written to more relatives and other researchers than I’ve kept track of; postage, paper, ink.

Over the years, I’ve probably spent a few thousand dollars doing all this.  I don’t mind, I love it.

However, every once in a while you encounter someone who makes you stop and think about what they’re asking for and how much time, effort and expense you’ve invested.  Every once in a while you realize that most of your relatives are not nearly as excited and interested as you are.  Every once in a while you wonder if anyone realizes how much you’re interested in this and how much you’ve put into it.  That’s all.

See new post on Wormuth Page.