Thursday, January 30, 2014

What will our grandchildren write about us? Beyond the basics of the family tree

Can you fill in the basic data for your four grandparents?

Name: surname at birth, married surname
Born: date and location
Married: date and location
Children: name and date born
Died: date and location
Buried: date and location

Beyond the basic data we document on a family tree, where else may we find out who our grandparents were?

Emigrated: (I have my grandfather's 1912 passport printed in Russian (in 1912 Russia ruled Finland)
Immigrated: (My Finnish grandparents came through Ellis Island in 1912 - their records are online)
Naturalization records: records for my Finnish grandfather are online
Moved: changed residence?
Census: residence on state or national census
Education: school, apprenticeship, etc.
Taxed: valuated on tax records
Military: what branch? served in war?
Profession: date, location
Religion: Christened, Baptized, Ordained, etc.
Elected Office:

A basic family tree entry for a President and a felon looks the same in the data. They were born, may have married, may have had children, they died. It is in the records generated beyond birth, marriage and death that we understand who they were. One lived in the White House, the other in the Big House.

The short list given here for other records is just the start for where to discover the lives of our ancestors. Other records may include newspaper articles; obituary; fraternities, court records; personal journals, letters, ethnic societies (my grandparents belonged to the Finnish Brotherhood); draft cards (cards for both of my grandfathers are online); and much more.

Like the pointillist style of painting, genealogists fill in one little piece at a time, until suddenly - voila! a picture emerges that is startling in the colorful details it reveals.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How is a family tree like an elephant?

I can think of two ways that a family tree is like an elephant.

They are both very big.

They appear to be different things to different people, depending on their view. A family tree is like the old story about blind men examining an elephant: the one holding the tail said it was a rope, the one holding the trunk said it was big snake, the one holding a leg said it was a tree.

Today I worked on the profile for Mehitable Johnson, born in 1644 in Massachusetts Bay Colony.

For the descendant who entered her data as sister to their Johnson ancestor, she was Mehitable Johnson. A different descendant whose ancestor was Mehitable's first husband described her as Mehitable Hinsdale. Another researcher who was filling data on their Root ancestors logged her as Mehitable Root. A descendant of John Coleman noted her as Mehitable Coleman.

Indeed, like the elephant, she was all of the above. She was born to Humphrey Johnson and Elenor Cheney; her first husband, Samuel Hinsdale, was killed by Indians, her second husband, John Root suffered the same fate, and her last husband, John Coleman, died before she did. She was widowed three times, and with her birth name, her record appears under four different names.

This is why WikiTree invented merges. Building one tree for everyone and their ancestors is a large ambition. It takes time, patience and special software. One of the best tools is the merge function. Because Mehitable is one person, not four people, I used the merge tool and captured the data from all four profiles into a single profile. Mehitable now shows up as the courageous, tenacious, wife and mother that she was, living on the frontier, raising her seven children, resilient and strong. She died at about forty-five years of age, August 4, 1689 at Hatfield, Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Now, all her names: Johnson; Hinsdale; Root; Coleman are together on her profile. If you were a descendant and searching WikiTree for Mehitable under any of her names - you would find her.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Smokey says "only you can prevent prevent forest fires"

I always admired the Forest Rangers in our National Parks. They have complex jobs: they protect the animals and the people and the environment; they educate and guide visitors; they coordinate search and rescue missions if someone gets lost. 

Now I may put that admiration to good use - I am a Ranger in our great WikiTree. The similarities are striking: we protect the profiles and the members; we help to educate and guide visitors; if someone gets off on the wrong track, we help them find their way back. Our main mission is to protect our great WikiTree and keep it safe, while explaining the amazing features to newly arrived members.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Can You Name all eight of your Great-Grandparents?

Twenty-five years ago I could not even name my four grandparents with confidence. Today I can show a pedigree tree with generations back to the Emperor Charlemagne. Here are the first four generations. My great-grandparents were mainly farmers, good, hard-working people. Do you know what your ancestors were doing 160 years ago?

embeddable family tree updated live from WikiTree

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Do you remember Snoopy? and "Happiness Is..."?

Snoopy thought happiness is a warm blanket, happiness is a friend who cares.

I agree on the warm blanket, and the friend, but I would add:

Happiness is a new Badge.

Every place needs Greeters. Churches have Greeters - they call them ushers.  County courthouses have Greeters - they call them Security Guards.  Walmart even has Greeters - and they call them - Greeters!

It turns out that WikiTree has Greeters too, and being a very straightforward and friendly place, call them Greeters. So meet one of WikiTree's newly minted Greeters - Yours Truly.

When I first began exploring WikiTree, I felt anxious that I didn't know how Wikis work, and was concerned I would goof up. The Greeter who made me feel at home was Terry Wright, and she was accompanied by others who checked on me to be sure I was accomplishing my goals, and comfortable at WikiTree.  It never occurred to me at the time that in three months I would be one of those friendly Greeters who made me feel so welcome. I've come full circle, and this is going to be fun.

Friday, January 3, 2014

More missing links Found - thanks to WikiTree

Prudden, Mitchell and Crow branches of my tree go WAY back now - thanks to WikiTree. It is wonderful to no longer be working alone on our family tree. These ancestors lived in the 1600's and later - our tenth great grandparents - so they are also the ancestors of millions of other people, and some of them have uploaded what they know to WikiTree. I am in the process of doing the same. Our combined information is more powerful - more accurate, more extensive, more complete - than anything I could do on my own.

Here is my latest badge: Club 1000. (or CK as it shows on the badge background). My goal is to finish uploading my tree, part by part until completed. Then I'll be able to download my whole tree to a DVD. This is the culmination of twenty-four years of doing research on my ancestors and on Leo's ancestors. It has given me an entirely different outlook on the history of our country, and of Finland, and England and Wales.  It has also given me a much different perspective on democracy, religion and freedom, and how much blood has been shed over them, how much those ideals drove the people who settled America.

It is possible to do a family tree with just name, birth, death, marriage, children and location - but I think that would bore me exceedingly. I want to know the context of my ancestor's lives, what they experienced, what motivated them, what they accomplished. That can only be accomplished by doing the research and adding to their profile, one ancestor at time. Except at WikiTree. AT WikiTree others members of the community are doing the same thing to their ancestors, who are also sometimes my ancestors. You see how it works. Everyone gets back more than they put in. Now that is a real win-win.