23 February 2017

Gathering All the Information From a Document


One of the cornerstones of effective research is pulling as much information from a source as possible. As Elizabeth Shown Mills points out in "QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof," a source contains information, the raw data which we evaluate to provide evidence toward a research problem.

I recently found a birth register, via FamilySearch, containing an entry for Elodia Varin, one of my great grandmothers. While I could have stopped at collecting just her birth date, I found a great deal more information by taking a moment to examine the entire page. From the entry I was able to note that:
  • Elodia was born on 21 July 1898 in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
  • Elodia's parents were Joseph and Georgiana Varin.
  • Georgiana's maiden name was Gagnon.
  • Joseph and Georgiana resided in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
  • Joseph worked as a mill operator.
  • Joseph and Georgiana were both born in Canada.
  • All of the entries on the page have a record date of February 1899.
Even though this is a birth register entry for Elodia, the information culled from that entry goes beyond just her.

photo credit: Kristofer Williams 'Icy Surf' - Brei├░amerkursandur, Iceland via photopin (license)

12 February 2017

Writing to Find the Gaps


Keeping track of my research on my personal family tree is an ongoing project in itself. It is very easy to get sidetracked (oooh, look at that document!) while trying to focus on a single individual and research question.

I spent much of the last year focusing on my Shelton ancestors. At the beginning of 2016, they were the family I knew the least about. I had the fewest documented facts about them. I could only go back one generation past my Shelton grandmother. A year makes quite a difference. My Shelton ancestors are now perhaps the best documented part of my tree.

And now I'm faced with the question: Do I continue working on the Shelton line or do I spend time on other branches of my ancestry? To help make up my mind, I decided to write a genealogical summary of what I have documented for each of my four major lines of research. The results of that effort show I definitely have gaps in my documentation.

The summary for the Shelton line contains three generations ending with my great-grandfather. The documentation includes census records, vital records, and court records.
  1. Isaac Z Shelton (abt. 1847 - 1929) and Amanda Pruitt (abt. 1853 - 1940)
    1. Isaac Denton Shelton (1892 - 1924) and Margaret Adelia Rice (abt. 1886 - 1972)
      1. George Alvin Shelton (1907 - 1998) and Vesta Estelle Hudson (1912 - 1991)
The Desjarlais line also contains three generations ending with my great-grandfather, though the documentation is heavily reliant on just census records. The information I currently have in my database is sparse.
  1. Jean-Baptiste Desjarlais (abt. 1842 - ?) and Eugenie (abt. 1845 - ?)
    1. Edouard Alma Desjarlais (abt. 1866 - ?) and Azama May Joubert (abt. 1865 - ?)
      1. Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais (abt. 1897 - ?) and Elodia Varin (1898 - ?)
My summary of the Ciske line is much like the Desjarlais line. It is heavily sourced from census records. There is a bit of flavor for Franz Cziske, my first direct line ancestor to immigrate to the United States, which is a step in the right direction.
  1. Franz Cziske (1835 - before 1900) and Justina Malest (after 1839 - 1926)
    1. John Ciske (1871 - 1876) and Christina Schubert (1865 - 1950)
      1. Gerald Lawrence Ciske (1901 - 1990) and Leona Strelow (1906 - 1998)
Of my Ratzman ancestors, I know very little. I have traced back to my second great-grandfather, though I only have his and his wife's names. Perhaps they are my focus for the year so that I can catch them up to the others.
  1. Edward T Ratzman (? - ?) and Alice Sailer (? - ?)
    1. Gordon Edward Ratzman (abt. 1907 - ?) and Margaret Boelter (abt. 1908 - ?)
The act of formally writing a report, for my own files, summarizing what I know and have documented for each line, has given me new insight into possible research paths for the future. There are branches that are flowering, while others are a tad stunted.

photo credit: Andi Campbell-Jones Scottish Weather via photopin (license)