Friday, May 25, 2012

Found the Devil

Like others before me, I have found the Devil, and he is in the details.  Little details, such as a typo, a wrong date, a word spelled wrong, whether someone was born "circa" a date or "before" a date. Just find a detail and you will find the Devil.

There are 418 Devils in place names in my FTM 2012, many of which are where I put the descriptive place, i.e. the manors owned, in the place name for birth. Since the majority of the records are of nobles holding many manors, the descriptive line makes the place name field go crazy. Other place name "errors" are where towns have changed their names; where the first name in the place field is not a town but a manor or a castle; when there is a slight change of spelling over the centuries that the place name authority doesn't recognize or when the data is simply wrong, as in where there is one city in two counties for a birth record.

I am fixing the place name errors a few dozen at a time, and putting the new records in the correct fields. It is just one part of the learning curve, about real estate in the Middle Ages, about the geography of England and France, about how Family Tree Maker works with online records, and most of all - about paying attention to the details, and keeping the little Devils out!

I have corrected most of the marriage date errors, and put contracts made for marriage while the subjects were still children in a different kind of record. That still leaves actual marriages made between people under sixteen, or in one case I found, under five years old. My program thinks it is a mistake, (I'm inclined to agree with it) but that doesn't change the fact. So I have resorted to adding wording indicating that it is a valid child marriage which was not repudiated (as was allowed by Church law) when the parties were of the age of consent.

Another kind of detail I have found is where the date for the birth is actually the date for the Christening, (which may or may not be the actual birth date), which is normally so noted, but which I have to remember to enter into the descriptive field.

I could list other little 'detail Devils' but you get the picture.

Then there is the detail of Copyright license and citing the author/publisher of a text or picture properly. I have almost totally given up using the convenient "add this to my tree" button in Ancestry - unless the article in question clearly cites the source and license (which I have usually found to be not the case). Sometimes I can find the original of the (unsourced) item on Wikipedia or elsewhere, and I can use excerpts giving credit where it is due. More details, more Devils.

Excuse me, it is time for me to go kick another dozen little Devils out of my work.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Family Tree Maker 2012 and SYNC - How To

In my experience, before running 'SYNC' the help desk advises running the "compact file" command off the drop-down menu "TOOLS". This may be essential to keep SYNC from crashing in mid-process.

Instructions below per the FTM Companion Guide, page 226:

"As you work in your trees you will add and delete quite a bit of data. However, even when data has been removed from a tree, the file may still be large. You should compress your tree files periodically to optimize performance, remove unnecessary items, and reindex the file.

1. Click Tools>Compact File. The Compact File window opens.
2. If you want to back up your file before you compress it, click the Back Up File Before Compacting checkbox (recommended).
3. Click Compact. If you have chosen to back up your file, the Backup window opens. Change any options as necessary and click OK.
4. When Family Tree Maker is finished, a message shows how much the file size was reduced. Click OK.

Because file compression happens behind the scenes, you won't see any changes to your tree, but you should notice better performance and a smaller overall file size."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Location, Location, Location; with LINKS

This week I've been working "Locations" - a feature of my genealogy software.  It is a list of all the place names in my data base. High-lighting a name in the left column will pinpoint it on a map in the center. Corrections and changes can be made to the edit window in the right column.  It will tag any place not found in its extensive memory and so it works as an error report for place names.  Tags will be caused by anything from a misplaced comma to spelling errors to place names not found in any atlas, map or gazetteer.

When the place name is from the Early Middle Ages, it may take some determined hunting to find it, changed spelling being only one challenge to a successful hunt. Here is a list of my most frequently used aids to locating a small, obscure or no longer extant place, including private manors and towns that have renamed themselves. 

A Vision of Britain through Time - "A vision of Britain between 1801 and 2001.  Including maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions."  Many of the descriptions include the surnames of families who historically were holders of the local manor, demesne, or castle, and more recent changes in ownership.  When unsure of which county is meant when the town of record has a common name, such details are vital clues.

Wikipedia - Often includes the surnames of nobility associated with a particular town, may add details about the ancestors buried in the local historical church, and details the lives of the more prominent individuals, including where they held property.  Most of these articles are well documented with scholarly foot notes, and often include pictures that may be reproduced.  So many links, so little time.

British History Online - "British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, we aim to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research."  Offers Full Text Search.

GENUKI -  United Kingdom and Ireland Genealogy. "GENUKI provides a virtual reference library of genealogical information of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland. It is a non-commercial service, maintained by a charitable trust and a group of volunteers."   Offers Site Search and Gazetteer.

Parishmouse -  Offers a separate data bases for Wales and England by county: "Parishmouse contains free transcriptions of historical books and parish registers for England and Wales and a large collection of photos of churches and graves and illustrations from the old books." While I less frequently find what I seek here, the occasional hit is often a virtual goldmine.

Google - When I have searched all the above and still not found any proof that a place in my family tree ever existed, I will turn to Google.  I do not consider finding the place name in other online genealogies proof, however Google sometimes will come up with a travel description of an obscure village in Cornwall or Wales, etc. which will provide a wonderful "Aha!" moment.

Once I have found a description and location of my long-ago family's residences, I like to include in my records a note on how the spelling has changed, whether it is a Manor and not a town, and other quirks. This way I can find it again later, and so can others who may look at my research.  Being able to resolve the tags on my questionable place names is a bonus.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Merciful Man

John Bissell 1591-1677  [Leo's 10th great-grandfather]

1656.   This interesting Indian episode is told:

 “As Bissell was at work at hay one day in the meadow, a Scantic Indian came running toward him and implored his protection.  Directing him to lie down, Mr. Bissell rolled a cock of hay upon him, thus effectively concealing him.  He had hardly done this when the Mohawks came running furiously in pursuit, who wished to know of Mr. Bissell if he had seen the fugitive.  He pointed to a particular direction which the Indians eagerly followed and thus the poor Scantic Indian was saved.”

Directly following the above entry is this:

1656, June 5.
“Goodman Bissell is fyned five shillings for Indians being drunke with syder which they had att his house.”

I see an interesting story, and wish I could know the rest of it!

Ref: One Bassett family in America; (etc) published 1926 New Britain, Connecticut. 
 Vol. I, p 117 Stiles:
 Vol. II, p 89 CC: