Pride, prejudice and genealogy

As they say “pride comes before a fall” and that applies in genealogy research as well. Over the years you’ve heard me say that I vastly prefer narrative documentation to conventional genealogy in trees, pedigree charts and ahnentafel numbers.

My earliest genimates, in the late 1980s, both belonged to the narrative tribe and they were both super-smart women. Perhaps that influenced my documentation but more likely it was also a personal predisposition. One was a little inclined to over-romanticise the story within the facts, which didn’t suit my direct style.

qld-muster-rollI suppose somewhere in the distant past I must have started with some pedigree charts and family group sheets – in fact it comes to me that this is what went into my contribution to the Genealogical Society of Queensland Bicentennial Muster Rolls (somewhere on my shelves). My preferred genealogy program has always been the now-defunct Relatively Yours and this is where I kept my basic data of BDMs. Writing my Kunkel book required me to have a full chart for the family in there. However, overall the program contained the bare data while the rest went into narrative from my notebooks.

Now that DNA has arrived on the scene this level of pride, and prejudice, has come back to haunt me. Now I need to know exactly where everyone fits on a family tree. Now I need to know the degree of relationships and who is a third cousin twice removed. How the genealogy gods (our ancestors?) must be laughing! On the positive side I’ve always been a fan of FANs (friends, associates and neighbours) or FFANS and I’ve used my research of collateral lines to solve mysteries and knock down the odd brick wall.

our_community_place_sandbox

Playing nicely in the sandpit. Wikimedia commons.

My documentation has been expensively and laterally obtained from original sources in archives and libraries in Australia and around the world. I was more than a little precious about it and reluctant to share especially where it was a one-way street. A few cases of slurping up my data with no thanks or reciprocity had made me cynical….no more playing nicely in the sandpit for me. Then there were a few cases where the fanciful family story was stacked against the facts and came out ahead…in came that pride and prejudice again. Let the facts speak and if you want to tell the inherited story, tell it as exactly that.

Another source of pride has been my blithe, and close to total, disregard of Ancestry trees. Funnily enough I do think you need to know what you’re looking for, by working steadily back from yourself, the old-fashioned way.

There was the day that one tree gave me a dose of conniptions when I saw a tree with umpteen more children than my particular family. Back to the drawing board and it took only a short time to realise they had mixed up two totally separate families (albeit with the same parents’ names): one lot was in New South Wales (Aussie royalty) and the other was my Queensland mob.  The children from each had been interleaved on the one tree. Whew! Prejudice confirmed.

naryshkin_family_tree

Naryshkin family tree: Wikimedia Commons

Over the time I’ve also been too prideful to much attention to online trees because I’d been careful and was confident my research was a rigorous as I could make it. What I missed was that those trees  were being grown by likely cousins….how astonishing! I may shake my head at seeing un-cited images from my book but I’ve come to the conclusion that at least people are enthusiastic about their family trees and sharing information. I’ve even bitten the bullet and put up a tree of my own and made it public….believe me that’s been a huge leap of faith. Get back pride, take a seat prejudice.

So my task at present is to work through those shaky leaves on family trees and pin down where they fit in: are they cousins or do they simply have some remote peripheral family link? It’s going to take time and it can only help build up my knowledge of family and should help with my DNA matches, and maybe encourage some to test as well. There’s certainly no shortage of kin out there.

Congress 2015 meets RootsTech/FGS

DSC_2845My genimate Jill Ball (GeniAus) was generous enough to invite me to participate in an interview with Congress 2015 speaker, Josh Taylor at the combined RootsTech/FGS conference in Salt Lake City. It was my first experience of being interviewed, and interviewing, in a proper sound booth so that was fun…and slightly intimidating at first. Jill will be sharing the Josh Taylor video on her blog in the near future, so I won’t share any spoiler info with you.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the interview Jill and I did at RootsTech.

Josh Taylor’s RootsTech presentation: Tech tools

However, I did want to whet your enthusiasm further for Congress by sharing Josh’s online RT/FGS conference presentation about “30 pieces of tech I can’t live without”. I wonder how many of them you use and what you (and I) will try after viewing the video?

One of the things I like about the blogisphere is the sharing of tools, tips and techniques we use for our genealogy – so many of Josh’s tips were among my favourite tech tools. Having said that, there were quite a few other tools I want to try: mood board, flipboard, reddit, trello, some WordPress widgets, snag it and Archive Grid. Oh, and wouldn’t a Hovercam be nice <smile>, As Josh says himself, you have to choose the ones that work for you. I especially enjoyed his comment about why you save five minutes in a library – I could certainly relate to that <hint – about the 8 minute mark>.Tegxedo cloud

What I particularly like about listening to Josh is that he’s so passionate about his family history and he “gets” what we’re on about. I was also impressed that he mentioned JSTOR, which we can access through the National Library of Australia with our library cards – make sure you allow time in Canberra to visit the Library.

Sharing the learning online

RootsTech has some of the presentations online here and more are expected in coming days.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies has their recorded sessions available to purchase for $US10 which I think is a pretty good bargain. I’ve downloaded a couple I didn’t get to and two I did: one on long-distance membership, something of great relevance to me, and a genetic genealogy one I thought was very helpful. More about the latter on my Worldwide Genealogy post today.

Join us at Congress 2015

Congress 2015So if you’ve been feeling left out when following the Twitter, FB and G+ feeds of the 15 Aussies who went to what Jill calls “the greatest (genie) show on earth”, there’s still plenty of opportunity for you to get a taste of the experience. And of course, since you’ll be coming to Congress 2015 in just over a month, there’s lots more ahead for you, including enthusiastic keynote speaker Josh Taylor.

Jill Ball has stocked up on blogger beads for the Aussie bloggers so there’ll be plenty of fun in store, as well as all that learning.

Don’t forget you can read about all our expert speakers through their interviews on this blog and my fellow official bloggers Jill Ball and Shauna Hicks.

We’re looking forward to meeting you at Congress and renewing friendships with those we’ve met elsewhere.

 

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Week 4: my kitbag of offline tools

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has kicked off 2012 with a new series of weekly blogging prompts themed as 52 Weeks of Abundant GenealogyWeek 4’s topic is Free Offline Genealogy Tools: For which free offline genealogy tool are you most grateful? How did you find this tool and how has it benefitted your genealogy? Describe to others how to access this tool and spread the genealogy love.

The (mostly) Irish migration corner of my library.

I confess that this topic confused me a little as I wavered between its meaning being a techno-tool which helped with my genealogy vs a source or repository, an equally valid interpretation. I opted to go with taking the term “tool” more literally as I’ll be addressing my offline sources and archive favourites in my Beyond the Internet series. So here is my priority offline kitbag (as you know I have trouble selecting just one):

  1.  My camera plus pen(cil) and paper.

This has been true for all the years of my research, long before digital cameras, or computers for that matter. I use my cameras (now digital) to photograph old family properties, streets where my families lived, their home towns, the cemeteries and the family’s graves, etc. In the various archives I can now mostly use my camera to photograph documents quickly and easily so I can skim-read them in situ,then transcribe and digest them at home at my leisure. I also use it to photograph images from microfilm, having been given permission to do this at the library. I truly would feel almost as bereft if I lost my camera as if I lost my computer. As to the pencil and paper, sometimes I find it easier to document information by hand – yes, regressive I know, but I do also use the laptop for specific projects.

Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

2.            My research reference library

Ever since I started family history I’ve been accumulating relevant research books (combines my love of FH + books). Since we’ve moved to Darwin this accumulation has accelerated and I now have a fairly substantial reference library of books, maps, CDs and DVDs to aid my research, not to mention my family-specific information in folders. I would be lost without having this library readily to hand when I need background to something I’m researching…but there’d be more space in my study 🙂

3.                Inter-library loans

I do try to curb my enthusiasm for book-purchasing to references which I know I’ll use repeatedly or which are not available through the National Library of Australia on inter-library loan.  This is a great service and it means I can have resources sent up to Darwin from Canberra. These resources might be books but equally might be rural newspapers on microfilm which have yet to make it into Trove. Ken at the Northern Territory Library does a great job coordinating these loans at the Darwin end. (Don’t forget that if you live in Australia you can also get an NLA cardto access online resources).

Not to forget the Scots!

4.                My library and archive cards

I have a stash of these for libraries and archives from all over. Even if they have to be renewed from time to time they make for quick access when you arrive for a time-limited research trip.

5.                 Microfilms

I can’t say often enough how important microfilms from the local Family History Centre are to my research (see one post here, or search my blog). It’s not all online, so being able to research at least some parish records, shipping records, occupation documents etc is invaluable. Look at the FamilySearch catalogue for your ancestor’s home town, county or country to see which films might help your research. Order them online here, then when they arrive you’re in for tons of fun at your local family history centre, however big or small it may be.

6.                Scanners

My scanner is a vital part of my offline world. My old photos, slides, negatives and documents churn through the scanner and go into my digital records. I love the Flip-Pal for quick scanning of photos for my blog or similar. It’s the interface tool between my online and offline world. I talked about both scanners last year here.

So there you have it, some of my “can’t do without” tools.

Which tools do you use in your research and which is your favourite?

Great tech resources for Family History: Scanners: film, slide and Flip-Pal

Prompted by a friend’s request I’ve recently been on something of a mission to scan some of the slides from our family’s days in Papua New Guinea. Back in the day we used slides rather than photos and have literally thousands of both family and places.  Some time ago I had the “Top 100” travel and PNG scenery photos put onto a Kodak CD which brings its own technological warning:  I can only open these now by buying a program online which says it can read these files. I think I’ll just settle for rescanning them.

Cassmobs including cat: government house in the backgound. Goroka PNG

The current focus has been on people, trying to find evocative pictures of family and friends from PNG. While it’s all been about the people, it’s also amazing how important a role the background plays in describing the scene, so tempting as it can sometimes be, I didn’t crop the photo. The background can tell you about furniture and fittings (Oh those 70s curtains with wild geometric patterns!), and show the surroundings be it the back garden, a remote picnic, scenery etc, not to mention fashions (those “hello officer” super-short minis). But they also evoke the memories behind the film –what happened on the way, the crowds of locals sitting watching us picnicking etc, warriors passing us en route.  It can also be a vaguely depressing experience as you see family and friends who are immortalised on film but are no longer with us in the world.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Goroka in PNG in early 1974. Not a superb photo but can you imagine being allowed to get this close today?

Having discovered that my old Canon scanner’s film feature was no longer working, I thought I’d best strike while someone wanted the images from me. In the end I bought an Epson Perfection V500 after reading online reviews for its film scanning capacities. Last weekend I scanned about 1000 slides with an emphasis on people photos, especially our family. The scanning turned out well and the colours were very faithful. There are some that could do with a trip to Photoshop® but that’s because of the original photo. This is particularly good considering these slides have lived most their lives in hot humid conditions subject to mould. Scanning also meant I could also adjust the exposure for those where the flash hadn’t worked properly.

It was kind of freaky to see some photos where my grand-daughter looks just like her mother at the same age and even more so realising how much my youngest looks like me at a similar age (don’t tell her, kids hate that!).  There are still lots of photos of PNG places and scenery from overseas trips but at least I have the key family ones done – and backed up!  And before the cyclone season as well, now to send a copy out of Darwin.

The other lovely thing that’s come out of all this scanning is that this Gerehuligan[i]group, most of whom had lost touch for many years, have been swapping emails and photos which we hadn’t seen the first time round. It’s been good fun.

A decades-old baby photo has come up well with the scanner.

Another of the reasons to buy this scanner was that it could do old size negatives. I had negatives that I’d taken as a young girl as well as negatives from my own baby photos and my parents’ wedding. I’m absolutely delighted that these have come up perfectly. Despite being decades old they look as good as new and true to the original standard.  I’m absolutely delighted to have recovered these childhood photos in particular as I have very few actual photos.

I can’t say the Epson manual is much use – if you can’t use the scanner intuitively I think you’d be in for a difficult time. It has performed well despite the fact my laptop runs on Vista 64 bit which can cause other programs to have a hernia. There have been a few “fun” moments along the way as each “weird” negative size brings its own challenges, but I’ve managed to figure out how to get what I want from it. What I’ve found posting this story, is that the image sizes are too large so I may need to rescan them at lower res. Even feeding the photos from these old negatives through Photoshop® does not reduce the size sufficiently. Overall it’s a big thumbs up for the Epson scanner.

Turning briefly to the Flip-Pal scanner, which is currently not available in Australia unless you have someone in the USA willing to take delivery of it. Luckily my daughter went to the USA for work so I was able to order one through Amazon and have it sent to her hotel (letting them know first that it was coming)[ii]. It’s not too heavy or large so not onerous to carry. I love the fact that it’s so portable and I can just quickly scan something without having to go back and connect to the flatbed scanner. The results are fantastic and it’s super easy to use. I really love it and it will definitely be going with me whenever I travel for family history.

Now for all those photos!


[i] Named for where we lived.

[ii] You can’t order through the company and have an Australian billing address even if the delivery address is in the States. Using Amazon got around this as I could use my current account and just add a new address.