Sitting in my Research in the South class at IGHR this morning, I heard our instructor, Craig Scott, talking about the "Yam-see" indians in lowcountry South Carolina. Yam-see? Did he mean Yemassee (YEM-uh-SEE)? Enter the Parlez-vous Palmetto? The South Carolina Pronunciation Guide. Craig's preference (YAM-uh-see) is actually listed first, but with many generations of ancestors buried in Yemassee area cemeteries, I have always heard it called YEM-uh-SEE. The SC pronunciation guide says we are both correct.
There are times, however, when I've been downright wrong. I still remember the first time I was talking to someone about my ancestors in CHOW-un county in North Carolina and was told the correct pronunciation is actually Sho-WONN. How embarrassing! I bet, however, that some of you have run into similar situations when researching your ancestors in new localities. When it comes to place names, it is generally best to leave all preconceptions at the door. Beaufort, for example, is a place name in both North Carolina and South Carolina, named for proprietor Henry Somerset, the duke of Beaufort. Beaufort (BO-fert), N.C., carries the more historically accurate pronunciation, while in South Carolina they call it BU-fert. Pennsylvania is a state notorious for place names that aren't pronounced the way you might expect--just look at Schuylkill (SKOO-kill), DuBois (doo-BOYZ) and Versailles (ver-SAILS), and you'll understand what I mean. Even simple names like Carnegie create pronunciation controversies (for the record, I pronounce it car-NAY-gee).
If you want people to take you seriously when you're talking about ancestral places, take a little time and learn how to pronounce them like a native. Believe it or not, online pronunciation guides are available for a wide variety of localities. Here are a few to get you started: Read More...
Most of my ancestors were farmers. And by most, I would say at least 90%, which means--at least for my U.S. ancestors--that I make regular use of agricultural census schedules. The first federal agricultural census in the United States was taken in 1840, and continued on a decennial basis until 1925, when the frequency increased to every five years. Unfortunately, however, Congress and the Bureau of the Census didn't feel they had space to store these records, and they were regularly destroyed after the statistical information was extracted. Thankfully, the 1850-1880 agricultural censuses were offered to interested state libraries, historical societies, and other repositories, with the rest sent to the DAR Library for safekeeping, and most have survived to this day. Scattered returns do exist for agricultural censuses after 1880, but unfortunately the majority did not escape destruction.
Portion of 1880 agricultural census schedule for Henry C. Koth, Pocataligo, Hampton, S.C.
What can you learn from an agricultural census record? The questions vary slightly by year, but the types of information you might expect to find includes:
If you have an ancestor who lived in a city or even a decent-sized town, then your research plan should absolutely include a search for city directories. Genealogists all know the value of placing an ancestor in a particular time and place, but city directories can also be used to follow an individual's occupation, place of employment, and place of residence, as well as potentially identify life events such as marriages, deaths, and migrations. This list of residents of Hartford, Connecticut who left the area about 1920 includes their destination -- with many headed for nearby towns, and even California, Italy, and China! Looking beyond the names of your ancestors, city directories also provide invaluable insight into your ancestor's community, often including sections on neighborhood churches, cemeteries, and hospitals, plus organizations, clubs, associations, and societies.
Geer's Hartford [CT] 1921 City Directory (Hartford: The Hartford Printing Co., 1921), 809;
digital images, "U.S. City Directories," Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 May 2013).
Genealogy research timelines are not just for publication--they can also be a very valuable tool in the research process to organize and assess the mountain of information you have uncovered for your ancestor. Research timelines can help to examine our ancestor's life in historical perspective, uncover evidence inconsistencies, highlight holes in our research, sort two men of the same name, and organize the evidence necessary to build a solid case. Learn how to best use timelines or chronologies in your research, and explore a variety of tools to help you create them.
Genealogy Research Timelines
Ever since attending my first genealogical institute in 2010 (IGHR's Course 4, Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis with Elizabeth Shown Mills) I've been a huge proponent of genealogical institutes. Prior to that I was pretty much self-taught, outside of the lectures and workshops I'd attended at genealogical conferences. Conferences are great, don't get me wrong, but spending an entire week focused purely on genealogical education is pure bliss in my book. Time and money don't always make it easy to attend a genealogical institute, but even with three children and a husband who travels for work, I still find it very much worth the extra effort.
Registration for one of the popular genealogical institutes--the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG)--opens tomorrow, Saturday, June 1, 2013. In addition to the wide variety of course options and the outstanding instruction, SLIG is also a great institute to attend for its location right next to the Family History Library. Especially for those traveling a far distance (think Scotland or even Australia!), the cost of travel is one of the largest expenses. But pair that up with some extra research time at the FHL and the expense becomes a lot more attractive. SLIG also negotiates for some great hotel rates, which also keeps down the expense of a research trip to Salt Lake City.
The 10 courses for SLIG 2014 include:
- Course 1: American Research and Records: Focus on Families with Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FUGA
- Course 2: New York Research with Karen Mauer Green, CG
- Course 3: Research in the South, CG
- Course 4: Advanced Research Tools: Land Records with Richard G. Sayre, CG, and Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL Read More...
The experts say to write as you go. This is because for many of us the writing isn't the biggest problem - it is the organization. Pulling together notes, source citations, image copies, draft copies, etc. into a finished product isn't always as easy as it seems. I used to use Microsoft Word for my genealogical report writing, but the linear format requires scrolling up and down through pages and pages while rearranging items, and that just doesn't work well for me, even when using a template. Sometimes I would even cut a piece of content intending to move it elsewhere within the document and then forget to paste it back in. How annoying is that?
If that sounds like you, then these specialized writing tools and software may be of assistance--designed to help you organize the entire writing (and even research) process from beginning to end. Most allow me to work the way I work best - in bits and pieces and chunks, rather than in a linear format. It may take some time, but if you find the one that works well with your research and writing style (I personally use Scrivener), you will enjoy writing so much more!
Old land surveys are often hard to fit on a modern map due to a phenomenon known as magnetic declination--the difference between true north (the axis around which the earth rotates) which is used for maps, and magnetic north (the place the needle on a compass points) used by land surveyors. To put it another way, the complex shape of the Earth's magnetic field means that there are few places where a compass needle will point directly north. Yes, you can still use the compass to navigate to the North Magnetic Pole, but your journey will not follow the most direct path as seen on this magnetic declination map of North America for 2010.1.
Only along agonic, or zero declination, lines are true north and magnetic north the same. One zero declination line runs fairly directly through North and South America, generally through the Mississippi Valley states in the United States. There's also an agonic line looping through Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Greece, India, China and Australia. As you move east of the declination line, the compass needle points west of true north, with a westerly (negative) declination. West of the line, the compass needle demonstrates an easterly (positive) declination. In Seattle, Washinton, the declination is currently around 20° East (+20°), while the Canadian Maritimes are roughly at 20° West (-20°). As you approach the poles, declination can be 90° or more, rendering the compass fairly useless as a navigational aid.
The angle between magnetic north and true north, or the direction to the north geographic pole, has been adjusted for by surveyors going back to at least the seventeenth century. Does this mean the plats from that point forward are truly accurate? I sure wouldn't bet on it. Magnetic declination wasn't always calculated correctly, as in the case of the 1742 survey of Massachusetts' northern boundary. Read More...
A wide variety of options exist online for searching and viewing digitized copies of U.S. census records from 1790 to 1940. Several subscription-based sites offer the entire run, with seamless searching and browsing. However, if you only need access to a few census records, or are particularly budget-conscious, you can also achieve free access to the entire U.S. census run 1790-1940 with a little extra effort.
Heritage Quest Online offers free access to all U.S. census images 1790-1940 (and select indexes) to anyone who has free access through a participating local, state, or university library system. Contact or check the website of your local public library, as well as your state and any nearby university libraries, to see if they offer remote access to Heritage Quest Online and if you are eligible to apply for a library card. Alternatively, you can use the free census indexes available on FamilySearch, in combination with the free digitized U.S. census images on Internet Archive (no indexes) to achieve free access to the entire U.S. census collection 1790-1930. The 1940 U.S. census (not necessarily other records) is completely free from several sources, including Archives.com (not to be confused with Internet Archive--archive.org), Ancestry.com (free account required to view records), FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, and FindMyPast.com (free registration required).
Learn more in Sources for U.S. Census Records Online
Family documents such as letters, diaries, and even original land deeds, like the one pictured, are hiding among the manuscript collections held by archives, university libraries, historical societies and other repositories around the world. Since they are generally not easily accessible, especially online, many people overlook this wonderful family resource.
U.S. State Archives Online - Record Collections, Finding Aids, and Catalogs
10 Questions to Ask a Research Facility Before You Visit
Two new free online study group options are now available for discussing and learning from the book Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, GG, CGL, FASG, FNGS. This book is published by the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and is now available. It can be ordered directly from the National Genealogical Society here, and will also be available at next week's NGS Family History Conference. I blogged about this book last fall under its then working title, after taking a course taught by Dr. Jones at the British Institute based on exercises from the pre-press copy. The press release from National Genealogical Society also describes the new book: