Sunday, September 15, 2013

Do You Think You have Finished your Family Tree?

I thought I had completed sections of my family tree decades ago - nothing new there.

I have never been so happy to be totally wrong!

Records that previously were accessible only in micro-film or rare books are now at the tips of my fingers, in online Google Books, Internet Archive and at Ancestry.com.  Old files previously mouldering in the basements of county courthouses are now only a mouse-click away, in online database files.

What an enjoyable week this has been - checking "completed" branches on my family tree and discovering new facts, documenting facts already in the tree with hot links to the data, and generally having fun, fun, fun.

Now, I understand that if you have not succumbed to family tree fever, as I have, you might think my definition of fun is very strange indeed. Well, I think people who enjoy pinning butterfly carcases to display cases strange so it must be each to his own obsessions.

Whatever your intensity of family tree fever, high or low, it would likely pay off big to go back and check your completed branches with what is currently available at Ancestry.com, or through a powerful  Genealogy In Time  search. If you have discovered early New England ancestors, take a look at what they know about them at NEHGS [New England Historical and Genealogical Society]. Although less extensive records are available if you check the "free only" box, I have found valuable information at NEHGS.

It is easier to quickly evaluate new data on people one has already researched, than it would be for a later descendant who is not familiar with the individual records. Don't let your grandchildren have all the fun - go get those freshly available facts now.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Paleo Diet without the meat

Huff Post article: 6 Health Lessons From the Paleo Diet is a perfect description of the diet I have been on since May - I rated the article a ten out of ten - you can find it with the link above.

So my "Paleo" diet is one with little meat - I have two ounces of turkey twice a day in snacks, and that is all (except for the days I have three snacks). That is no sacrifice, since I don't especially crave meat in my diet. I have plenty of protein - more than is needed - 80 grams/day. I get one third my minimum daily requirement of protein in just one smoothie.  It is mainly from non-fat Greek yogurt.

The rest of the description of what makes a Paleo diet so great also perfectly describes how I have lost fifteen pounds without having cravings. Usually I don't feel hungry.

So what are the 6 health lessons?
1. avoid processed food - easy. Everything is fresh, raw, and spends only a minute in my blender.
2. pair diet with exercise - hard. I used to love to walk, run, swim, etc. After a couple of car accidents it is hard to exercise enough, but I can still walk, which according to my surgeon is a literal miracle. I would agree.
3. a good salt balance - easy. I don't salt my smoothies. I get lots of potassium with a banana a day.
4. choose good fats - easy. Part of an avocado goes into the spinach smoothie (yes it does taste good). Almond meal in a breakfast smoothie and flax seeds or chia seeds in the berry smoothie. Easy.
5. Cook for yourself - easy. Smoothies take about ten minutes to make.
6. Don't count calories - easy. Well, that is because my recipes already counted the calories, in the book by Harley Pasternak, MSc.  Going by how often I use it, "The Body Reset Diet" is my favorite book.

Side benefits from this well balanced diet include smoother, more youthful looking skin.  With an average of 43 grams of fiber a day, regularity is no problem anymore.

I use more Greek yogurt than in Harley's recipes, one-half to three-quarter cups extra in lunch and dinner smoothies, and add extra almond meal, because this is how I eat every day, not just the five initial days of Harley's plan. His plan allows 18% fat per day for the first five days, but I have increased that to 20% for the long term, and increased the calories from 871 to 1400 with the increased yogurt and more fruit, and extra snacks.

So now you know - even though you didn't ask.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Terrible Temptation to Fill in ALL the Blanks

I dislike ambiguity, ignorance, and blank spots on forms.  I dislike it so much that when I first began working on my family tree, I would fill in a blank spot with what I supposed might have been.

That is fine for writing fiction, but it doesn't work well when putting together a genealogy.  Which hasn't kept it from happening - often!

Take the case of Nicholas Johnson, born at ? on the date of ?; married Mary Coley on 15 Mar 1694 at Fairfield, CT; removed to Cohansey, NJ in 1697; wrote his will 1 Sep 1732; and died sometime between then and the inventory of his estate on 25 Jan 1733.

Nicholas Johnson might have been born in Fairfield, CT, where he was married; Fairfield CT was settled in 1639, so it is technically a possibility. In actuality, published lists cover the names of the settlers through 1681, with no Johnson in residence. It is doubtful he was born in Fairfield, CT.

Until 1697, Cohansey was inhabited by Indians, with a sprinkling of Dutch settlers beginning about 1680.  In 1697 a group of men arrived in Cohansey "from Connecticut and Long Island" to purchase land from the Indians, and Nicholas is listed among them. We can probably eliminate Cohansey as a birthplace for Nicholas.

There is a record of one Nicholas Johnson arriving in Maryland in 1676. It is on page 261 of The Early Settlers of Maryland: an Index to Names of Immigrants, Compiled from Records of Land Patents, 1633-1680, in the Hall of Records, Annapolis, Maryland. Did 'our' Nicholas own land in Maryland before arriving in Fairfield, CT? Or is it possibly a record of his father, if his father was also named Nicholas?

Or did Nicholas arrive in Fairfield from across the ocean?  He did not arrive with the early settlers, who came from Maryland.  I have searched those lists of names and there is no Johnson at all.

So my page for Nicholas Johnson is blank under birth date and birth place.  I learned that it is better to endure ambiguity, and blank spots, than to suppose a 'might have been' and fill in a blank with embarrassing  errors. I have also learned it is very tedious to have to go back and correct all those old records where I cheerfully filled in every blank, whether it was documented or not.

Perhaps in the future a family Bible with the missing information will be discovered, or a departure record from a port in Europe, or some other fact that will show me how to fill in the blank places.  I began working on genealogy as a way of 'nailing down the facts'.  After twenty-five years at this addictive hobby, I have begun to actually like a little ambiguity, and I'm even learning to love the blanks.

The alternative - a profusion of conflicting suppositions, is so unsettling that blanks look good by comparison.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Two branches of my tree meet at the Battle of Kings Mountain

Teddy Roosevelt called the victory at Kings Mountain, Oct 7, 1780, "the turning point of the American Revolution". Historians agree that if America had lost that crucial battle, the strategic pincer movement planned by the British generals would have succeeded, and hope would have been crushed for the Patriot's cause.

The Battle of Kings Mountain, North Carolina, between about 1430 Patriots and 1200 British soldiers and Tory sympathizers was small, as battles were measured in that war. It was brief, only 65 minutes long. But the consequences for the future of two countries was huge.

Today I was astounded to learn that soldiers from two branches of my family tree fought at Kings Mountain under Col. Siever. The Sherrill company, ancestors of my father's mother including Joshua Sherrill, were there in strength. Burt Moore, ancestor of my father's father, marched over a mountain to participate.

Joshua and Burt survived the battle, and the war. Four generations later, their gr-gr-grandchildren, Charles and Clara, met in a tiny lumber town in Washington and got married. Charles and Clara are my grandparents. I doubt they ever realized that their gr-gr-grandfathers were both fighting the British at Kings Mountain.

The discovery of that neat coincidence was left to me, 233 years after the battle. Next month is the anniversary of that event, and I really must do something special to celebrate on the seventh of October.

What might you discover if you learned what your ancestors were up to, a hundred, two hundred, or five hundred years ago?

More on Genealogical Proof: the standard for what it is and is not

Every fact in a record must come under scrutiny for accuracy, as well as for being applied to the correct person. Typos and other faults cause misspellings which can throw a record into confusion. Place names can change as counties grow and boundaries are re-drawn, and new counties are created.

An example I recently saw would be on my 7th gr-grandfather, Richard Hancock, who died in Cohansey, Cumberland, New Jersey 20 May 1689.  A public record was created which stated he died in Cohorsey, Cumberland, New Jersey.  With the Internet, it is a very quick check to see the location mentioned in a record. In this case, it would show there is no such thing as Cohorsey in New Jersey. Since I was familiar with the family, and had seen other records showing they had lived in Cohansey, the mistake was quickly resolved for me.

Other times, I have puzzled over a place name for days or even weeks before finding enough clues in alternate records to sort out the location.

This is but a very simple and obvious part of creating accurate family trees.  Genealogical Proof Standard, by Christine Rose, defines what is a genealogical proof in her small but powerfully written paperback.  I strongly recommend the book, printed in 2005, as the best way to guard against wasting time, creating erroneous trees and false data. Correct spelling isn't even at the beginning of the list of cautions in the book.

Her six-step process chart on page 18 begins with "Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search among a variety of records" and ends with "Write up the conclusion, including an explanation of any opposing evidence and how it was resolved. Include citations."

A more typical conflict in genealogical proof is in the case of my grandfather, Kustaa Heikkila. Records from relatives in Finland give his mother's name as Josefina Seppala. His border crossing record, from the ship Tunisia log of alien passengers, shows his destination as his cousin, August Seppala, in Albion, California. My grandmother, who knew his family and visited them, said his mother was Josefina Seppala.  But now I have a conflict to resolve, because his death certificate as excerpted by Merle A. Reinikka, says that his mother's name was Josephine Tabbla.

Possibly the handwriting was so poor that it is merely a transcription error. But I will need to resolve the conflict.

This week seems to have been sprinkled with errors of one kind or another. As I was comparing my information to other family trees, I found one tree that had assigned my gr-grandmother Elizabeth Anderson to the family of Joshua Anderson and his wife California Queen.  I sent the tree owner a copy of the 1850 census which shows Elizabeth with her father, Joshua Anderson and his first wife, Millie Jones. The census agrees with the information on Elizabeth's death certificate, given by her husband John Dellinger whose father Eli served with Joshua Anderson in the Civil War.  California Queen was twelve years old when my gr-grandmother Elizabeth was born.

Part of verifying the accuracy of a tree is whether the given ages of people make sense within the relationship. I have seen multiple trees where the mother's death date was some years before the birth of her child. Clearly not possible, but someone missed the error, and others copied it. Is the mother's death date wrong, or the child's birth date wrong, or was it a different mother entirely?

I have a strong liking for solving puzzles, untangling mysteries and uncovering hidden stories in the lives of my ancestors. How wonderful to live in an age where so many records and books are available on the Interent.  Not that long ago, people had to travel to where the records were kept to do the research. While this is still true of some records, it is less true every day as diligent librarians scan records and books into digital format.  I can time travel to the scene of Magna Carta in England in 1215, or to New Caledonia in 1945, where my father served as a radioman for the Navy in WWII.