Monday, January 16, 2017

Genealogy and Indexing - A Mission Learning Curve

 My family tree is a growing by leaps and bounds in Family Search as well as at I want to offer thanks to all the people who are involved in indexing, which, if you're not familiar with it, is the transcribing and publishing of public records for the use of genealogists around the world.
 Think of that, people all around the world are able to help make public and give easy access to records of births, marriages, baptisms, and deaths for those of us who are searching for our ancestry and heritage. It's an amazing effort that has made it possible to find records that I would otherwise have to either pay for, and or travel to the communities of those family members who have passed on to sort through.
What used to take years to research and gather information on is now as easy as clicking on a "hint" at your preferred genealogy site. You can view documents in most cases, although sometimes there's just typed information, but along with names and dates you also find addresses, occupations, and even stories about someone you might be looking for. Sometimes I can almost see these people, feel their joy, their pain, and sense the challenges they faced. In one instance I have an ancestor who signed up for military service in WWI and within two months was lost at sea when the ship he was on was attacked and sank. As I read the death record and that the father had been notified of this young man's passing I could feel the grief he, the father, must have felt at the news. Here was a young man who never had the chance to marry or have a family. He was already well traveled as he had been to Guatemala, and lived in Mexico and then as a young salesman for the Goodyear tire company, went to Havana, Cuba on business. His passport stated that he was going back to the US as soon as possible.
To those who are involved in genealogy I want to offer some words of advice. As you access the links provided to records on a person, please please please take the time to view the actual image of the documents if possible. I've found over and over again names and dates misspelled or recorded, most likely as in the case of census records, as an estimate. You will clearly see a name spelled one way on the record, but the typed data on the page prior may have incorrect data. Don't assume that because a name is spelled slightly different, or a date is just not quite right on the hint page, that the record isn't a match. Do your due diligence, as I've found all sorts of new information, such as other family members, and so on by doing this. I've also realized that I might have passed on that "hint" and potentially lost some key information due to incorrect information on the initial hint page.
A good way to tell if a record is a match although the surname or some of the names are wrong, is to check the recorded address. Often people stayed in the same home for years, and in a lot of census records the street and address are recorded, although sometimes not. My guess is that when taking censuses folks would ask information of whomever might be home, and that person either didn't have all the facts and guessed, or for some reason didn't want to give out the right information. In the case of some of my ancestors they may have had accents that were hard to understand. In one instance the first Julius Proeger to come from Germany has three different immigration years listed in the various census records I've found. I'm not sure, except that I do have a birth record on his wife, what her preferred name was, because I've found Mina, which is on her headstone, Whilhelmina, Minnie, and Mine, and her birth name is Sibylla Mina.
If you are involved in indexing, please be very cautious and read through the record viewed very carefully. Sometimes they are hard to sort out, but most of the incorrect information I've found has been misspelled names. Dates are also an issue, although not as much.
If you are involved in genealogy or indexing I would love to hear from you and get some of your feedback as well as hearing your story.

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