Category Archives: Resources – Software, Websites, Records, Etc

My Struggle with Legacy Family Tree Sourcing – part 1

Yesterday afternoon I got an email from Ancestry touting their newly added US Sons of the American Revolution Application dataset. (By the way, you can access it FREE this weekend in celebration of the Fourth of July holiday.) So I naturally logged on to Ancestry, went to the new SAR dataset and entered one of the surnames that I research to see what would pop up. And sure enough, I got some hits! The third or fourth one on the list I recognized as being one of my 5x great-grandfathers. Clicking on his name sent me to a screen where I could access the actual scanned image of a SAR application. And in viewing the application I was able to see birth, death and marriage dates and places for the generations that separated the applicant from the patriot.

Now, for me, this is both a blessing and a curse! Why? Because now I have to decide how to structure this within the confines of the method Legacy Family Tree has implemented sources and citations. Basically, I need to decide what information from the SAR application I want to store in the source and what I want to store in the citation. This discussion comes up often on the Legacy Users Group email list and is generally referred to as “lumping and splitting.” (FYI: Legacy has chosen not to provide a forum/message board, and with their email archiving being fractured and possibly dropping messages, many questions are repeated periodically.)

I think the both the source/citation and so-called lumping/splitting concepts are best illustrated with examples. The most easily understood source example is a book. Most people (regardless of whether they are lumpers or splitters) would agree that the book information (title, author, publisher, date, etc) should be stored in the source table and the page (or chapter, page range, etc) should be stored in the citation. As this illustrates, the purpose of the citation is to link the source to the event, and as such it should refer to the specific subset of the source that contains the data that was extracted and inserted into the event or fact.

Another common source – census data – is much less straight forward in terms of what part is source and what part is citation. If you follow Legacy Source Writer templates for US Federal Censuses, your sources will be specific to year, state, county and online database. In other words:

  • source 1 – 1880 Census, Pennsylvania, Berks, Ancestry.com
  • source 2 – 1880 Census, Pennsylvania, Berks, HeritageQuest
  • source 3 – 1880 Census, Pennsylvania, Chester, Ancestry.com
  • source 4 – 1800 Census, Pennsylvania, Chester, HeritageQuest

Splitters may break this down further, with separate sources for each town or city. Some have even suggested each census sheet is a separate source! As you can see, splitters have a very large number of very specific sources. Very little, if any, additional data is stored in the citation and it becomes just a link between source and event.

On the other hand, I fall into the lumper category. I still use Source Writer, but I leave the state and county fields blank when I create the census source. Then, when I add a citation, I preface the municipality field with the state and county. Since the source writer citation form does not have a logical place to store the online database (i.e. Ancestry vs. HeritageQuest, etc), my sources are based on year and online database. I’d rather it just be year, but I want to know which online database I used, so I make this concession in order to use source writer. Thus my sources look something this:

  • Source 1 – 1880 US Federal Census, Ancestry
  • Source 2 – 1880 US Federal Census, HeritageQuest

In general, lumpers have fewer sources and those sources are (for the most part) not repetitious. My guess is that most Legacy users who have a background in software or database design will probably lean toward the lumper end of the spectrum because that more closely follows the design principles to which we are accustomed.

Getting back to the SAR application and how that fits into the source/citation structure. A splitter would most likely consider each application a separate source. On the other hand, I consider the Ancestry SAR Application Collection the source, thus the specific data on an individual application would be part of my citation. But for a document like a SAR application, where it will serve as a citation for many events or facts, the fact that Legacy stores multiple copies of the citations is trouble waiting to happen. — more on this later in part 2 of this article [link].

Friday’s Find – Pennsylvania German Resources Website

Today’s Friday’s Find is a website that I was lucky enough to first come across several years ago. It is an amazing resource for anyone with Pennsylvania German (more commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch) ancestors and relatives. It is Charles F. Kerchner’s website and the home page can be found here.

While there are a lot of  useful tips and information on this site, two pages that I found absolutely invaluable are the one that discusses naming conventions and the one that discusses nicknames.

In addition to listing common naming patterns for both males and females, the naming conventions page does a great job of explaining the concept of the “baptismal name.” This is why you may run across a family with sons named something like Johan George, Johan Adam, Johan Philip, etc. The Johan part is the saint (or baptismal) name. These men would have commonly been known as George, Adam and Philip – and these are the names you need to look for in civil records. In fact, Johan and Johann are almost always baptismal names whereas Johannes would be the form used if the child was to go by John. Kerchner also discusses on this same page the feminine suffix of “in,” use of the terms Jr, Sr and cousin, and more. If you are researching Pennsylvania Germans, you really need to read this page and bookmark it (or save it to your tool box or resource list).

The nickname page has also been a great help to me with my personal research. The one in particular is Rebecca as a nickname for Margaret. (Or is it vice versa?) Not only is this one not obvious, but it leaves me scratching my head as to how they (the 18th century Germans, that is) ever came up with it. But it has gone a long way in explaining some of the families I’ve been researching. Without this information I would not have known that the baby girl baptized as Margaret was the same person as the daughter named Rebecca in the will. It also helped explain why baptismal records for the children of Henry and Margaret were interspersed with records for those of Henry and Rebecca. (I had previously thought that there were either 2 Henrys or that Henry was a bigamist!)

Anyway, the website of Charles Kerchner is today’s Friday’s Find. I hope you’ll check it out and that some of you find it as useful as I did!

Friday’s Find – webcemeteries.com

I would venture to say that most genealogists/family historians have heard of findagrave.com. It is definitely one of the most popular websites for user-submitted burial information. Well, a few months ago I came across webcemeteries.com. In a way they are the opposite type of service in that they provide “cemetery internet packages” to cemeteries both large and small in order for them to create websites and searchable databases of their own records. They also have an American Legacy Initiative that provides small cemeteries and independent genealogists with the tools needed to create and manage websites and databases for the burial records of legacy cemeteries.

When you visit the webcemeteries home page, you can click on the “Search Cemeteries” option to get a listing of all the cemeteries participating in their program. I did a quick count and came up with about 36 or 37 on the current cemeteries list and almost as many on the legacy list. I noticed several from Pennsylvania (which is where most of my research is centered), but there are other states represented as well.

If you find a cemetery of interest on the list, you can click on it to go directly to the website for that cemetery.  From there you can then click on the “Search Records” option and enter the last name (and optionally the first name) to get a list of matches within that cemetery. I tried a partial surname search (i.e. I typed “SMI” for the last name, and all the Smiths, etc were returned by the search.)

In addition to searching on a per cemetery basis, you can optionally search all the cemeteries in their system at once. In order to do this, select “Genealogy and Memorials” from the home page. You will be taken to the site cemsearch.com. The search box on this site will return a list of all the matching records from all the cemeteries in the webcemetery program. Clicking on one of the returned matches will take you to the individual cemetery record for further information.

Webcemeteries is a site definitely worth checking out. You may also want to monitor it every couple of months or so to see if any new cemeteries of interest to you have joined their program.

So that’s the Friday’s Find this week — webcemeteries.com!

Tuesday’s Tip – Know the Facts Before you Scan

This week’s Tuesday Tip (a blogging prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers) deals with learning about the pros and cons of various scan settings before you start to scan your old photos. This is actually a topic that I originally researched back in the fall of 2009. At that time I was preparing to scan ancestor photos that my Mom had come across and passed along to me.

I decided to post about the subject now since it has been discussed quite a bit recently on the Legacy Family Tree User’s Group mailing list. It is also a timely topic for me personally as I am in the middle of another round of scanning. This time it is my own collection of pre-digital photos. Most of them are about 5-15 years old. (Okay, maybe some of them are even older, but they haven’t quite made it to vintage yet!)

In any case, scanning a large batch of photos, regardless of their age, most likely isn’t a job that you want to tackle more than once. So you want to make sure you have the settings “right” the first time. Back in 2009, when I was scanning my vintage photos, I started out having a few ideas about what would be good for scanning resolution, file format, etc. But as is typical, I searched the web to make sure I was on the right track and to get a feel for what other people were doing in this regard. As it turns out, the “right” settings are, at least in part, dependent upon the intended use of the scanned image (i.e. printing, posting to web, etc). [For my purposes I decided to use 600 ppi (or dpi) for the majority of photos and snapshot that I scan.]

When I first started round two of scanning I didn’t bother surveying the web again as I still remembered the information I gathered back in 2009. But then one of the posters on the Legacy mailing list mentioned a website called scantips.com. So I went to that site and, sure enough, it was one of the ones that I had checked out before.

It’s a great site, very well-written and very easy to understand. I actually wound up reading quite a few of the articles – some which seemed familiar and others which I think may have been added since I checked it out before. Anyway, if (or when) you decide to start a scanning project, scantips.com is definitely worth a read. The author of the website has a great discussion on photo resolution as well as the advantages and disadvantage of various image formats. So that’s my Tuesday Tip this week — get informed before you start scanning – and a great place to get that information is the scantips website. Hope it helps!!

Friday’s Find – Laurel Hill Cemetery (Philadelphia, PA) Website

Laurel Hill Cemetery, located in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the final resting place for many famous and not so famous Philadelphians. Founded in 1836, it is one of the few cemeteries designated as a National Historic Landmark. It comprises about 78 acres divided into three sections: North, Central and South. If you have ancestors or extended family who lived in Phladelphia in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries, there is a very good chance that one or more may be buried in this cemetery.

And the best news – Laurel Hill has an excellent website that you can check out here. In addition to detailed historical information, the website also has a searchable database!! To access it, go to the main website, select “Resources” on the side menu bar, then “Records” on the top menu bar. From there, just click on “Search” and enter your ancestor/relative’s surname. The results include the Section and Lot number, so if you are planning to visit the cemetery, you have a pretty good approximation of where to look for the grave.

This is definitely a site to add to your Resource List or Toolbox if your researching Philadelphians!